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The U.S. Congress chartered the American Legion on September 16, 1919. 2019 is the 100th Anniversary of this historic and vital service organization. To mark this momentous occasion the U.S. Mint is striking coins to celebrate the service and dedication of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and then joined the organization to serve veterans and their families as well as advocate for their rights and well-being.
The American Legion organization has played a major role in the drafting and passing of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, which is also called the "G.I. Bill." In addition to organizing commemorative events, members provide assistance at V.A. hospitals and clinics. It is active in issue-oriented U.S. politics. Its primary political activity is lobbying on behalf of the interests of veterans and service members, including support for benefits such as pensions and the improvement of the Veterans Health Administration and access to benefits and improved services.
The organization has also historically promoted "Americanism" which is the time-honored view that there is more that unites us than divides us and that despite our differences in background, we all hold dear the ideals that founded the United States.
The American Legion organization was founded on March 15, 1919, at the American Club in Paris by members of the American Expeditionary Forces who served there in World War I. It is a U.S. war veterans service organization with membership open to those who served at least one day of active duty during World War I or II, Korea, Vietnam or served during actions in Lebanon, Grenada and Panama. People who have served after August 2, 1990 are also eligible for membership. Members must have an honorable discharge or still be serving. The organization has its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is made up of regional departments and local posts both in the U.S. and a few locations abroad.
The legislation behind the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coins allows for the Mint to collect surcharges from each coin. These proceeds, $35 for each $5 gold coin, $10 for each silver dollar, and $5 for each clad half dollar are to be paid to the American Legion in support of the organization’s programs for veterans, serving members of the Armed Forces and their families and other organizational purposes.
The $5 Gold coin obverse was designed by Chris Costello and engraved by Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill. The image features the Eiffel Tower and the “V” which stands for victory and was also a commonly used symbol during World War I and leading up to the time that the organization was formed in Paris, France in 1919. The obverse rim uses the rim design of the American Legion emblem. The reverse was designed by Paul C. Balan and engraved by Joseph Menna. This image features a soaring bald eagle, the timeless symbol of the United States. The American Legion emblem is shown overhead.
The Silver Dollar coin obverse was designed by Paul C. Balan and engraved by the U.S. Mint engraver Renata Gordon. The design features the American Legion emblem accented with oak leaves and lilies, which commemorate the founding of the American Legion in Paris. The reverse was designed by Patricia Lucas-Morris and engraved by sculptor Michael Gaudioso. Above the image of the Stars and Stripes and the American Legion flag appears a fleur-de-lis and the notation “100 Years of Service.” The design reflects the founding of the American Legion in Paris in 1919.
The cupro-nickel clad Half Dollar coin obverse was designed by Richard Masters and engraved by Phebe Hemphill. The image depicts two standing children as they recite “I Pledge Allegiance…” A young girl is shown wearing her grandfather’s American Legion hat. The reverse was also designed by Mr. Masters and was engraved by Joseph Menna. The design completes the phrase from the obverse “I pledge allegiance to the flag… of the United States of America” and shows the American Flag at the top of a flag pole from the viewpoint of the children featured on the obverse. The American Legion’s emblem is shown above the flag.
Congress authorizes the U.S. Mint to strike commemorative coins that celebrate and honor the American people, achievements, places, events, institutions and history. These coins are popular with collectors and are a mainstay of the Numismatic hobby in the U.S. They also typically help raise money for these culturally important subjects. Each commemorative coin is produced by the U.S. Mint for a short period of time and typically in limited quantities.