Coin Collecting, TR, and American History

Feb 18, 2015

During President’s Day celebrations, people reflect on their favorite men who have held the top office. TR still ranks highly on those lists. He also has a strong following among coin collectors. Susan Schwartz, a team member at International Precious Metals and a passionate collector of coins, stamps, and all things American history, recently gave an interview to the Theodore Roosevelt Center. Her favorite coins to collect are American Gold Eagles, specifically minted pre-1990. Susan can be contacted at [email protected].

Q: How did you develop the idea of doing a survey that focused on coin experts? 

A: We wanted to bring mainstream awareness to the numismatic world. And we figured the only way to properly do this was with numismatic experts—mostly presidents of historic and well established coin clubs throughout the US. One of the natural questions which arose was which President deserves his own bill or coin. 

Q: What is it about Theodore Roosevelt that caused 30% of people surveyed to say he deserves his own denomination? 

A: Teddy Roosevelt is one of those presidents who seems to be on every person’s individual list of favorite presidents. His legacy becomes greater and greater as history progresses. And the fact that he doesn’t yet have his own denomination? I think it’s inevitable that he will get one soon—even before Reagan—simply because America as a whole seems to both respect, revere and adore him.

Q: How does coin collecting teach American History, specifically the Progressive Era when TR was president?

A: There are so many fascinating elements and anecdotes within numismatics which were directly affected by our country’s history. The most important example was the rise of demand for nickel during WWII which caused the US Mint to use copper for wartime nickels. These wartime nickels (1942-1945) are a huge part of American history, and serve as a reminder that even the greatest country in the world had to ration and make acute financial decisions with everyday currency—with no shortage of risk involved.

One often-forgotten detail of the TR era is that Morgan Silver Dollar minting ceased under his Presidency in 1904, as silver bullion had finally been depleted.

Q: What do you think are the chances of TR receiving his own coin?

A: The question isn’t what but rather when. The next time the US Mint introduces a new denomination, both Roosevelt and Reagan will be the most likely candidates to be featured. Being that TR served as President over 100 years ago gives him the upper hand, as his legacy is more cemented in the history books, (and he served during a crucial and still-nascent time in American history.)


Out of range, 1904-1909. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

Q: If TR did receive his own coin, what images of him or his life should be on it? 

A: This would be for true historians to decide, but my personal preference would certainly be an image of Teddy making his campaign speech in Milwaukee, despite being shot prior in an assassination attempt.   

Q: In 1902, TR authorized the Louisiana Purchase Exposition dollar. Is that a sought after item among coin collectors?

A: Everything is relative in coin collecting, and any rare or historical coin is going to be worth something to someone. In terms of value, these $3 coins are now worth $40 in terms of pure gold content, and upwards of $1000 in terms of what one would pay for one. I’d say that the 33,000% increase in value is pretty good (inflation notwithstanding).

Q: What would you most like fans of TR to know about the world of coin collecting?

A: That’s a great question and I have the perfect answer: A little known fact about TR is that  he personally commissioned a sculptor (Augustus Saint-Gaudens) to redesign the $20 Double Eagle as well as the $10 Indian head gold eagle. (Perhaps that is why coin collectors adore him so much!)

Posted by Pamela Pierce on Feb 18, 2015 in Current Events  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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