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





Coin Details

Origin/Country: United States
Full Grade: NGC MS 62
Owner: coin928

Owner Comments:

Philippines - 1920 HK-449 Silver SC$1 Wilson Dollar / Manila Mint Opening - Allen #M1 - Mintage: 2,200

This piece is a bit of a stretch for my Minted in the USA set but is perfect to start off the Mint of the Philippine Islands set. It’s not a coin, nor was it struck at a mint in the USA. It was however struck in a new mint constructed in an insular territory of the United States of America. This so-called “Wilson Dollar” was very likely struck on July 15, 1920, to commemorate the opening day of the Philippine Mint in Manila which would be used almost exclusively to produce US/Philippine coinage.

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 design found on the second Wilson inauguration medal in the United States Mint Presidential series.

The female figure on the reverse is often assumed to be Liberty, since this is a U.S. Mint medal. Occasionally, she is identified as Justice, 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 "Adviser" or "Warner", a very appropriate choice for a medal commemorating the opening of a mint.

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 noted numismatist and polymath Gilbert S. Perez who was present at the Philippine Mint on July 15, 1920 for the opening ceremonies. In 1921, 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. The medal was certainly struck under the direction of Mr. Hewitt, who was responsible for the assembly and installation of the minting equipment, but the design and engraving credit clearly belongs to George T. Morgan. Morgan's 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. We will never know exactly why Gilbert Perez credited the design to Clifford Hewett, but since he did, that credit has been propagated by many other authoritative sources. Mr. Perez also described the reverse design as the figure of Liberty protecting and instructing beginners in the art of coining, holding in her right hand a pair of scales to demonstrate the absolute necessity for care and exactness in operation which all mint work demands. He got that wrong too, so his errant credit of the design to Mr. Hewitt may not be that surprising. Fact checking in the 1920s was not as rigorous as it is today.

3,700 of these medals were stuck in bronze, 2,200 in silver, and a small quantity in gold. The number stuck in gold is most commonly quoted as 5, although six are known to have been certified by the grading services and many very knowledgeable dealers maintain that even more uncertified examples exist. The 1934 treasurers report states that at the end of 1934, 1,053 of the silver and 2,117 of bronze medals remained unsold. Mint records from 1935-1938 do not provide the same level of detail as in 1934, but it is possible to speculate on how many of each remained unsold in 1938. Demand for these mint opening medals rose shaprly 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 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 1941 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.

This Medal
This particular medal is one of the 2,200 minted in silver and originally sold for $1.00 in 1920. I purchased this specimen raw and submitted it to NGC myself for certification and grading. I was very pleased with the result.

Date acquired: 4/12/2005 (raw medal)
Date graded: 6/23/2009 (self submitted to NGC)

  • 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
Rev. 11/6/2017

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