The Mint of the Philippine Islands (1920-1941)
1920 Mint Opening Medal - Gold





Coin Details

Origin/Country: United States
Full Grade: MS Select
Owner: coin928

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Mint of the Philippine Islands (1920-1941)
USA/Philippines - 1920 Mint Set
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Explorer NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

Philippines - 1920 HK-1031 Gold SC$1 Wilson Dollar / Manila Mint Opening - Allen #M3
Mintage 8 or more (Eight known to have been certified, possibly with crossover)

The gold so-called “Wilson Dollar” was very likely struck at the Philadelphia mint, but may have been struck in Manila to commemorate the opening day of the Manila Mint in the Philippines.

The obverse is dominated by the portrait of President Woodrow Wilson who is identified only as the “PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.” It was designed by George T. Morgan and is a slightly abbreviated version of the obverse design found on the United States Assay Commission Medals of 1919, 1920, and 1921.

The female figure on the reverse is often assumed to be Liberty, since this is a Mint medal associated with U.S. coinage. Noted numismatist and polymath, Dr. Gilbert S. Perez was present at the Philippine Mint on July 15, 1920 for the opening ceremonies and identified her as Justice in the October 1920 issue of The Numismatist, probably because of the scales she is holding in her right hand. Neither of these are correct however. The reverse (also designed by Morgan) actually depicts "Juno Moneta" protecting and instructing a novice in the art and science of coin production. Juno Moneta is the Roman Goddess of Good Counsel, whose name means "Advisor" or "Warner", a very appropriate choice for a medal commemorating the opening of a mint. The design of the reverse is a modified mirror image of a design Morgan used on the U.S. Assay Commissions Annual Medals in 1882-1885, 1890, and 1892.

According the The British Museum, "The origins of the modern English words 'money' and 'mint' lie in ancient Rome. In the period of the Roman Republic, from about 300 BC onwards, coins were made near the temple of the goddess Juno Moneta. It was located on the Capitol (the modern Campidoglio), the citadel of Rome. The goddess's name, Moneta ('Warner' or 'Reminder') eventually came to refer to the place where the coins were made, the 'mint', and to its product, 'money', both of which derive ultimately from the Latin word moneta."

The design of the medal was first credited to Clifford Hewitt by Dr. Perez in 1921 when he published his first person accounting of the events in Numismatic Notes And Monographs No. 8, The Mint of the Philippine Islands in which he stated Speaker Osmeña of the House of Representatives [...] struck off the first medal (designed by Mr. Clifford Hewitt) which was issued in commemoration of the opening. Ever since then, that credit has been propagated by many other authoritative sources until it became accepted as fact. The medal was certainly struck under the direction of Mr. Hewitt, but the design elements and engraving credit clearly belong to George T. Morgan whose initial even appears on the base of Wilson's bust on the obverse and and to the right of Juno's left foot on the reverse.

Clifford Hewitt, devoted several years of his life to bring the Mint of the Philippine Islands to life. He designed the equipment, assembled it, shipped it to Manila through the Panama Canal, and spent seven month installing it and training the Filipino staff in the art and science of coin production. All of this effort came to fruition on July 15, 1920 with the striking of the first One Centavo coins and these "So-Called Dollars." Given the scope of Hewitt's responsibility and involvement, it seems quite likely that he was also involved in and responsible for a medal to commemorate the opening. Although we know he did not create the elements or execute the engraving, Hewitt may have conceived the idea for combining these particular elements into a single medal which would symbolize the successful completion of the mint. This too could be considered design.

Upon successful completion of his work in Manila, Hewitt spent the next 12 years in Shanghai China establishing the Chinese Central Mint. Unlike Manila, Hewitt's time in China is well documented and even includes descriptions of his design work on the new coinage. The obverse featured a profile of Nationalist founding leader Sun Yat-sen, and a classic Chinese junk, or boat, with two sails backed by the rays of the sun on the reverse. These too were images prescribed by the Chinese Government, but were likely composed into a coin by Hewitt. Hewitt certainly considered himself the designer of the new dollar sized silver coin, and by extension the Mint Completion Medal of 1930, which shared its most prominent design features: I completed the Chinese Mint and put it into full operation March 1933, with a coin designed by myself with Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s profile on the obverse and a typical Chinese junk on the reverse, which is now the coinage of the Chinese Government. Hewitt’s initials, CH, can even be found to the right of Sun Yat-sen’s shoulder on the medal’s obverse.

Unfortunately, the details of any conversations between Clifford Hewitt and Dr. Perez will never be known, but Hewitt's design of the Manila Mint Opening medal could be very similar to his design of the medal for Chinese Central Mint opening which followed ten years later.

3,700 of these medals were stuck in bronze, 2,200 in silver. The price of these medals to the public was one peso for the bronze and two pesos for the silver, and these prices remained unchanged for the 21 years that they were available from the government. A small quantity was also struck in gold, but exactly how many and where they were struck is still a subject of much speculation.

The gold medals were created as presentation pieces and as such were struck at least three times to fully strike up the detail. This multiple striking led to some slightly noticeable doubling of the devices. The number stuck in gold is most commonly quoted as five, although six are known to have been certified by the grading services. One of the gold pieces was presented to President Woodrow Wilson (who was suffering from a stroke at the time), one to Newton D. Baker the U.S. Secretary of War, and three (or possibly more) were retained in the Philippines and for many years and presumed lost during World War II. One uncertified example is said to exist in the The Money Museum of the Central Bank of the Philippines. Many very knowledgeable dealers also maintain that even more uncertified examples exist, so how can this be?.

Coin World magazine reported in January 2012 that an obverse die had been discovered in the estate of a U.S. Army warrant officer who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. According to his typewritten account, the mint in Manila was bombed and left wide open for looting. While others were scavenging silver bars, he only picked up the obverse die. The die was examined by several well known numismatists and authenticated as genuine. Since these dies were obviously never canceled, it is possible that other gold medals could have been struck "off the books" at the mint at any time in the 1920's or 1930's. This could account for the expanded number of gold medals that seem to exist.

The 1934 report of the Treasurer states that 1,053 of the silver and 2,117 of bronze medals remained unsold at the end of calendar year 1934. Treasury reports from 1935-1938 do not provide the same level of detail as in 1934, but they do state the combined total value in pesos of all of the mint opening medals remaining unsold at the end of each calendar year. That makes it possible to speculate on approximately how many of each remained at the end of 1938. Unfortunately, I do not have access to Treasury reports for 1939-1941, so 1938 is as far as I can reasonably go. Demand for these mint opening medals rose sharply when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was born in 1935 and the three commemorative coins were issued in 1936. At the end of 1938, less than 700 silver medals and less than 1800 bronze medals remained in the treasure. This represents about 30% of the silver and 48% of the bronze medals, so it is very likely that 1,500 to 1,600 silver medals and 1,800 to 2,000 bronze medals may have escaped being dumped into the Pacific Ocean in 1942 to keep them from falling into enemy hands when Japan invaded the Islands. These pieces were salvaged after the war but were corroded by the exposure to sea water, and are often sold as “sea salvaged.” Many of those that escaped the ravages of the salt water have been cleaned, so pristine, unadulterated examples are relatively rare, particularly in bronze.

Grading Service_Cert. Number_Grade______________________
PCGS83784389AU55 (formerly PCGS-24592857)
NCS5206198-001UNC Details, Mount Removed
ANACS1040348MS60 Details, Cleaned

The MS62 specimen was sold by Heritage Auctions in April 2008 for $69,000 in their Signature Coin Auction #1104 as Lot 2531. It then reappeared three months later at the Heritage US Coin Signature Auction #1114 as Lot 2151 where it sold for $74,750.

The PCGS AU55 first appeared at the Lynn Knight auction of the Dr. Gregory Pineda collection in June 2012 with cert. #24592857, and sold for $41,400. It then reappeared at the Heritage 2013 January 6-7 Ancient & World Coin Signature Auction - New York #3021 as Lot 22446 and sold for $44,062.50. Sometime after this sale this medal was re-holdered with the new cert. #83784389.

  • Coins, Medals and Tokens of the Philippines 1728-1974 by Aldo P. Basso, second edition Bookman Printing House, Quezon City, 1975
  • Numismatic Notes And Monographs No. 8, The Mint of the Philippine Islands by Gilbert S. Perez, The American Numismatic Association, New York, NY, 1921
  • United States Territorial Coinage for the Philippine Islands by Neil Shafer, Whitman Publishing Company Racine, Wisconsin, 1961
  • 'Wilson Dollar' medal obverse die surfaces - Coin World, January 31, 2012
  • Annual Report of the Treasurer of the Philippine Islands to the Secretary of Finance, Manila Bureau of Printing, for each of the calendar years 1920-1938
  • Medals of the United States Assay Commission 1860-1977, by R.W. Julian and Ernest E. Keusch, TAMS Journal 29: 5(2), October 1989
Rev. 11/15/2017

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