World War I was one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the world, claiming an estimated 17 million lives over less than four and a half years. Many thought it impossible for the world to endure in such a massive conflict again after such a tremendous death toll. It is no surprise, then, that the U.S. Mint would issue coins to mark the hundredth anniversary of our involvement in the war. Each set will include two pieces, one uncirculated and one proof silver dollar. The U.S. Mint will release a maximum of 350,000 of these sets during 2018. Given the significance of the event being commemorated and the renewed importance of honoring American veterans, these sets are likely to sell quickly.
Centennial coins fall under the umbrella of commemorative coins, which have a long history with the U.S. Mint. In 2017, two sets of centennial coins were issued, one celebrating the Lions Club and the other Boys Town. The Lions Club is a large service organization, while Boys Town provides a support network for children who are at-risk. This 2018 edition marks a more somber occasion, though one that was widely celebrated at the time. The coins offer a clear and unique look back at situations as they existed 100 years ago while also offering collectors and others the opportunity to reflect on history since then and whether and how the country and world have moved in positive directions.
Both of the pieces in this set share the same powerful obverse and reverse designs, both of which were created by LeRoy Transfield and sculpted by Don Everhart. The reverse design is called “Poppies in the Wire.” Poppies are amid lines of barbed wire. Poppies have served as a means of remembering those who died fighting for their countries for nearly a century. The story originated with Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” which he composed shortly after losing a close friend. He wrote about the poppies because they were among the only things that could grow in the barren, war-trodden fields. Inspired by the poem, Moina Michael, an American academic, made and sold red silk poppies in 1921. Anna Guerin brought them to England, where the Royal British Legion ordered 9 million of them. The symbols of life, beauty, and remembrance are in stark contrast to the barbed wire, which caused countless deaths in the brutal trench warfare of World War I. Inscriptions on this face include “ONE DOLLAR,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (From many, one) and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
The obverse is entitled “Soldier’s Charge.” It features a side image of a somber soldier holding his rifle. His right hand steadies it while his left hand is positioned to fire. He wears a helmet, which provides a limited amount of protection from the assault of bullets that he either is facing or is about to face. Barbed wire entwined in the lower right suggests that he is at the front of one of the most deadly conflicts in history. The years of the anniversary, “1918” and “2018,” are inscribed in the lower left. Other inscriptions include “LIBERTY” in the upper right and the national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” on the right.