The U.S. Mint’s numismatic sales figures for the week ending April 23, 2017, are probably giving the Mint’s accountants a giant collective headache—but they do make for an interesting discussion of buyer behavior. Much of the excitement (for lack ...

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Mint’s weekly sales figures fall flat


The U.S. Mint’s numismatic sales figures for the week ending April 23, 2017, are probably giving the Mint’s accountants a giant collective headache—but they do make for an interesting discussion of buyer behavior. Much of the excitement (for lack of a better word) seems to be an ongoing ripple effect that started with the April 4 release of the 2017 Congratulations Set. Mint News Blog readers will remember it well, with its surprise S-mintmarked American Eagle silver Proof coin. The Mint’s entire supply sold out in under two minutes, leaving a great many customers frustrated and angry.

Looking at the Mint’s weekly sales data for 2017 to date shows that retail buying patterns got interesting the week before the 2017 Congratulations Set was released. Consumers had been purchasing roughly 10 to 25 of the 2016 Congratulations Sets (16RF) per week since the first report of 2017. The week ending April 2, however, sales jumped to 462. Were the Mint’s customers worried that the 2016 sets would no longer be available after April 4? Or were they being trigger-happy as the news spread about the special ASE coin in the 2017 set?

April 4 came and went, and the 2017 Congratulations Sets, as noted, sold out in under two minutes. The Mint issued a statement that a few more of the sets would be made available as returns, order cancelations, and credit-card cancelations were processed.

The Mint skipped its next numismatic sales report, which would have covered the week ending April 9. When the April 16 report was released, we learned that a net 3,130 of the 2016 Congrats Sets sold during those two weeks. It seemed pretty clear this time that excited customers were hastily buying the 2016 sets, thinking they were getting a few of the 2017’s that could still be available.

On the current report (week ending April 23), the 2016 Congratulations Sets are newly listed as “unavailable.” No doubt the returns will be rolling in on the April 30 report, or perhaps the May 7.

This week’s report is interesting for other reasons as well, one of those being the volume of downward adjustments:

  • 2016 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Proof coins (16EA), -2,522
  • 2016 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Uncirculated coins (16EG), -2,699
  • 2017 American Eagle 1-oz. silver Proof coins (17EA), -18,820

Were these returns related to erroneous purchases during the Congratulations frenzy? Or did it just happen that the Mint chose this report to process adjustments related to ASEs? In any case, the Mint removed a total of 24,041 unit sales from the books. Given that only 18,205 items were sold, the net unit sales figure for the week was actually a negative number: -5,836. It would take a bit of digging to find the last time this happened; certainly, it’s the first time this year.

The Mint’s top-10 sellers the past week were also at a record low for 2017. For the first time this year, only one item in the entire numismatic catalog sold 1,000 or more units: the 2017 U.S. Mint Proof Set (17RG), released March 29, which sold 6,547 units for the period.

To compare the current sales report with those earlier in the year:

 Week EndingNo. Products with +1k Units SoldNo. of Units Sold
In Top 10Overall
Jan. 8510,89250,065
Jan. 15510,50322,023
Jan. 22639,83746,295
Jan. 291035,21342,267
Feb. 5515,89819,955
Feb. 12617,33844,837
Feb. 19758,87665,513
Feb. 26831,39538,627
Mar. 51135,33947,346
Mar. 121261,35576,029
Mar. 19920,91726,175
Mar. 267249,815257,910
Apr. 29221,654233,031
Apr. 16*20168,743203,889
Apr. 23111,806-5,836
* Report covers two weeks’ worth of sales.

The question now is whether this week’s sales figures are at a normal low point in the cycle, or much of the Mint’s customer base really is exasperated enough to give up on Mint products. To be fair, there were no new releases at all last week, and the previous week, only one item—the 2017 ATB Uncirculated Set (17AA), released April 10—debuted. The period ending March 19 had no new products that week, but it benefited from the ongoing sales of the 2017 Boys Town commemoratives from the week prior.

The Mint’s next release, the moderately priced ATB Frederick Douglass 5-ounce silver Uncirculated coin (17AK), rolls out May 2, but sales for the series haven’t been strong for a while. The current net figure for the previous 5-ounce coin, Effigy Mounds, is exactly 10 units more than it was on its first week’s sales report (March 12), when it came in at 14,363. The 1-ounce Proof gold Buffalo coin (17EL) debuts May 11, but last year’s version got off to a relatively slow start, and sales puttered on at a steady but unremarkable couple hundred a week for most of 2016.

Whatever the cause of the current malaise, it seems unlikely to lift for at least the next two or three weeks.   ❑

“Cents and Sensibility” Act reintroduced, aims to convert U.S. coinage entirely to steel composition

1943-D over D steel cent. (Photo courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries)

1943-D over D steel cent. (Photo courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries)

On April 6, Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) reintroduced the Cents and Sensibility Act (H.R. 2067), which proposes “to save the American taxpayers money by immediately altering the metallic composition of the one-cent, five-cent, dime, and quarter-dollar coins, and for other purposes.”

Cosponsored by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), the act is further described in a press release as “bipartisan legislation [that] lowers the cost of producing pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters by ensuring they are minted with steel instead of minerals imported from outside the United States.”

Under H.R. 2067, the new coins would differ from our existing coinage only in their metallic composition. Furthermore, they would be struck exclusively from steel produced in the United States, provided that “an adequate supply of an appropriate grade of steel [can be] produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities.” The bill, which does not apply to numismatic coins, would affect all circulating coins beginning 90 days after the bill’s enactment. (Additional provisions of the H.R. 2067 can be viewed here.)

Rep. Stivers has long been a proponent of all-steel coinage. He first introduced the Cents and Sensibility Act (as H.R. 3693) and the Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel Act (H.R. 3694) on December 15, 2011. Those bills applied only to cents and nickels; the present Cents and Sensibility act covers all currently circulating denominations.

“This legislation is a common-sense solution to decrease the cost of minting pennies and nickels,” said Stivers of his 2011 bills. “Not only will it cost less, but steel is an American resource that we have and can manufacture right here in our backyard.”

The 2011 bills ultimately died, but a determined Stivers reintroduced the Cents and Sensibility Act in 2013—this time expanding the language to include all circulating U.S. denominations—and again in 2015. This time, he pointed out that “a study by Navigant Consulting reported that the federal government could save approximately $2 billion over 10 years, in metal costs alone, by changing the composition of the nickel, dime, and quarter to steel.”

As has been much discussed in the media, U.S. coinage is expensive to make, especially the 1- and 5-cent denominations, which cost more than their face values to produce. The Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-302), which took effect in December 2010, authorized the secretary of the Treasury to conduct research-and-development activities on coinage materials. Since that time, the Mint has released biennial reports on this research—one in 2012 and another in 2014, with a third, for 2016, being expected soon.

National cost savings are not Stivers’ only concern. Steel is a big deal in Ohio, and a natural interest for Stivers and his cosponsors, who represent the contiguous 15th, 3rd, and 12th congressional districts (which include and surround the capital, Columbus). The Mahoning Valley area—sometimes called “Steel Valley”—is a historical center of iron and steel production, and is one of many American regions that were affected by the steel crisis of the 1970s and, later, the influx of cheap foreign steel in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Despite these substantial hits, Ohio has ranked “second in the nation in raw steel production every year of the last decade… 13 companies on Fortune magazine’s U.S.-1,000 or Global-500 lists have iron and steel industry establishments in Ohio; three of them—AK Steel, Timken Steel, and Worthington Industries—maintain their world headquarters” in Ohio. (See “Advanced Manufacturing: Ohio Iron and Steel Industry, January, 2016.”)

H.R. 2067, which has the endorsement of the American Iron and Steel Institute, has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.   ❑

2018 Red Book honors David Rittenhouse, first director of the United States Mint, and 225 years of American coinage

The following is a cross-post from Mint News Blog’s sister site, Coin Update.

(Pelham, Alabama)—The classic hardcover version of the 71st-edition Guide Book of United States Coins (the hobby’s popular “Red Book”) celebrates the 225th anniversary of federal coinage in Philadelphia. On its back cover is a commemorative gold-foil portrait of David Rittenhouse, first director of the United States Mint, who was appointed by President George Washington in 1792. In addition to being the Mint’s first director, Rittenhouse was renowned as an astronomer, inventor, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, professor, public official, and crafter of scientific instruments. The first coinage under the Mint Act of 1792 consisted of half dismes (small five-cent coins made of silver), followed by copper half cents and large cents issued for circulation in 1793. Every copy of this year’s hardcover Red Book features the special portrait honoring David Rittenhouse and celebrating 225 years of U.S. Mint coinage.

Portrait of David Rittenhouse by Charles Willson Peale. (Wikimedia photo)

Throughout this year, the United States Mint is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the 1792 congressional act, which also established the first Mint facility, in Philadelphia. Its social-media pages share factoids and human-interest stories (#MintMoments). Facebook and Twitter followers can search the hashtag #USMint225. The Mint’s YouTube page ( features videos of historical footage comparing old coin-production processes to those of the modern day.

Early in 2017 the Philadelphia Mint released Lincoln cents with a P mintmark—the first time a Philadelphia mintmark has ever been used for a one-cent coin—to celebrate the mint’s 225 years. In April the Mint released its 2017 high-relief .9999 fine gold American Liberty coin, with raised edge lettering (225th ANNIVERSARY) and the dual dates 1792 and 2017. Later in the year the Mint will offer silver-medal versions of the same design in four different formats, one struck at each of three Mint facilities (Denver, San Francisco, and West Point) and two formats struck at Philadelphia.

The 71st-edition Red Book covers all of the Mint’s coins going back to 1792, including such popular issues as Indian Head cents, Wheat cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Liberty Walking half dollars, Morgan silver dollars, and gold coins up to the $20 double eagle. Its coverage of modern coinage includes the newest commemorative issues, and circulating coins from Lincoln cents to America the Beautiful quarters and Native American dollars.

Other sections explore in detail colonial and early American coins and tokens; Proof and Mint sets; die varieties; Civil War tokens; private and territorial gold; Puerto Rican, Philippine, and Hawaiian coins; error coins; silver, gold, and platinum bullion; and other series in American numismatics.

The 71st-edition Red Book debuted March 30 at the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo in Baltimore. It is now available online (including from and from booksellers and hobby shops nationwide, in several formats. The commemorative hardcover version with David Rittenhouse’s portrait retails for $17.95.

A Guide Book of United States Coins, 71st edition
464 pages, full color
By R.S. Yeoman; senior editor Kenneth Bressett; research editor Q. David Bowers;
valuations editor Jeff Garrett
$15.95 spiralbound
$17.95 hardcover
$19.95 spiralbound hardcover
$29.95 Large Print Edition
$49.95 expanded Deluxe Edition (1,504 pages)

2017 America the Beautiful–Frederick Douglass National Historic Site 3-coin set rolls out April 24


The U.S. Mint will open sales for the 2017 America the Beautiful Quarters Three-Coin Set honoring the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (17AE) on Monday, April 24, at noon Eastern Time. The coin is the second ATB quarter in 2017 and the 37th in the program overall.

The reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Thomas R. Hipschen. The design places Douglass to the right of the field in a three-quarter profile toward the left, seated at his writing desk. His left hand rests on his knee, while his right holds a pen to paper on the desk top. In the background is his Washington, D.C., home, Cedar Hill, which is also depicted on the card that holds the three coins. The legend surrounding the field reads, in three parts, FREDERICK DOUGLASS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, and E PLURIBUS UNUM, with the date of issue, 2017, below the main design.


The obverse features the left-facing profile portrait of George Washington originally created by John Flanagan in 1932 and updated by William Cousins in 1999, at the start of the 50 State Quarters Program. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears above the portrait and QUARTER DOLLAR below, with LIBERTY to the left and, in three lines, the national motto, IN / GOD WE / TRUST, to the right. The mintmark (P, D, or S) appears below the motto.


Each three-coin set features an Uncirculated quarter from Philadelphia Mint, an Uncirculated quarter from the Denver Mint, and a Proof coin from the San Francisco Mint. The specifications for this and all modern quarter dollars are as follows: Composition:  8.33% nickel, balance copper. Weight:  5.67 g. Diameter:  0.955 inch (24.26 mm). Edge:  Reeded.

The following history of Frederick Douglass is from the National Park Service’s website.

Slavery and Escape

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in February 1818. He had a difficult family life. He barely knew his mother, who lived on a different plantation and died when he was a young child. He never discovered the identity of his father. When he turned eight years old, his slaveowner hired him out to work as a body servant in Baltimore.

At an early age, Frederick realized there was a connection between literacy and freedom. Not allowed to attend school, he taught himself to read and write in the streets of Baltimore. At twelve, he bought a book called The Columbian Orator. It was a collection of revolutionary speeches, debates, and writings on natural rights.

When Frederick was fifteen, his slaveowner sent him back to the Eastern Shore to labor as a fieldhand. Frederick rebelled intensely. He educated other slaves, physically fought back against a “slave-breaker,” and plotted an unsuccessful escape.

Frustrated, his slaveowner returned him to Baltimore. This time, Frederick met a young free black woman named Anna Murray, who agreed to help him escape. On September 3, 1838, he disguised himself as a sailor and boarded a northbound train, using money from Anna to pay for his ticket. In less than 24 hours, Frederick arrived in New York City and declared himself free.

The Abolitionist Movement

Frederick and Anna married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they adopted the last name “Douglass.” They started their family, which would eventually grow to include five children: Rosetta, Lewis, Frederick, Charles, and Annie.

After finding employment as a laborer, Douglass began to attend abolitionist meetings and speak about his experiences in slavery. He soon gained a reputation as an orator, landing a job as an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. The job took him on speaking tours across the North and Midwest.

Douglass’s fame as an orator increased as he traveled. Still, some of his audiences suspected he was not truly a fugitive slave. In 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, to lay those doubts to rest. The narrative gave a clear record of names and places from his enslavement.

To avoid being captured and re-enslaved, Douglass traveled overseas. For almost two years, he gave speeches and sold copies of his narrative in England, Ireland, and Scotland. When abolitionists offered to purchase his freedom, Douglass accepted and returned home to the United States legally free. He relocated Anna and their children to Rochester, New York.

In Rochester, Douglass took his work in new directions. He embraced the women’s rights movement, helped people on the Underground Railroad, and supported anti-slavery political parties. Once an ally of William Lloyd Garrison and his followers, Douglass started to work more closely with Gerrit Smith and John Brown. He bought a printing press and ran his own newspaper, The North Star. In 1855, he published his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, which expanded on his first autobiography and challenged racial segregation in the North.

Civil War and Reconstruction

In 1861, the nation erupted into civil war over the issue of slavery. Frederick Douglass worked tirelessly to make sure that emancipation would be one of the war’s outcomes. He recruited African-American men to fight in the U.S. Army, including two of his own sons, who served in the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. When black troops protested they were not receiving pay and treatment equal to that of white troops, Douglass met with President Abraham Lincoln to advocate on their behalf.

As the Civil War progressed and emancipation seemed imminent, Douglass intensified the fight for equal citizenship. He argued that freedom would be empty if former slaves were not guaranteed the rights and protections of American citizens. A series of postwar amendments sought to make some of these tremendous changes. The 13th Amendment (ratified in 1865) abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment (ratified in 1868) granted national birthright citizenship, and the 15th Amendment (ratified in 1870) stated nobody could be denied voting rights on the basis of race, skin color, or previous servitude.

In 1872, the Douglasses moved to Washington, D.C. There were multiple reasons for their move: Douglass had been traveling frequently to the area ever since the Civil War, all three of their sons already lived in the federal district, and the old family home in Rochester had burned. A widely known public figure by the time of Reconstruction, Douglass started to hold prestigious offices, including assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, legislative council member of the D.C. Territorial Government, board member of Howard University, and president of the Freedman’s Bank.

Post-Reconstruction and Death

After the fall of Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass managed to retain high-ranking federal appointments. He served under five presidents as U.S. Marshal for D.C. (1877-1881), Recorder of Deeds for D.C. (1881-1886), and Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti (1889-1891). Significantly, he held these positions at a time when violence and fraud severely restricted African-American political activism.

On top of his federal work, Douglass kept a vigorous speaking tour schedule. His speeches continued to agitate for racial equality and women’s rights. In 1881, Douglass published his third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which took a long view of his life’s work, the nation’s progress, and the work left to do. Although the nation had made great strides during Reconstruction, there was still injustice and a basic lack of freedom for many Americans.

Tragedy struck Douglass’s life in 1882 when Anna died from a stroke. He remarried in 1884 to Helen Pitts, an activist and the daughter of former abolitionists. The marriage stirred controversy, as Helen was white and twenty years younger than him. Part of their married life was spent abroad. They traveled to Europe and Africa in 1886-1887, and they took up temporary residence in Haiti during Douglass’s service there in 1889-1891.

On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting for the National Council of Women. He returned home to Cedar Hill in the late afternoon and was preparing to give a speech at a local church when he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Douglass was 77. He had remained a central figure in the fight for equality and justice for his entire life.   ❑

Filipino veterans of World War II will finally—after more than 70 years—receive their Congressional Gold Medal


A World War II poster created by Filipino artist Manuel Rey Isip in New York City during the war. Some 15,000 copies were smuggled into the Philippines after the islands fell to the Japanese, to bolster the resistance.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, found me in Washington, D.C., attending my ninth meeting as a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee since I joined the group in February 2016. Every meeting of the CCAC is a remarkable experience, but on a personal level, for me and my family, this particular one had special significance. I feel honored to have been part of it.

One of our main agenda items was to meet with representatives of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project ( and discuss an important project. After more than 70 years, Filipino veterans of World War II will be recognized by the United States with a Congressional Gold Medal. This is a symbolic gesture—a single gold medal will be minted, to be deposited for posterity in the Smithsonian—and it comes after several generations of Filipinos have struggled for official recognition of their wartime service.

“The Filipino WWII soldiers accomplished their mission to protect our freedom. We must now do our mission to support them.” This is the stated goal of FilVetREP. The group quotes the U.S. Army soldier’s creed:

I am a warrior and member of the team.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

More than 260,000 Filipinos in the islands and from the United States volunteered and served in the U.S. military during World War II. Nearly 60,000 of them were killed in action. At the time the Philippines was a commonwealth of the United States. President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress promised a simplified naturalization to U.S. citizenship and regular military benefits for those who served. Filipino resistance to the Japanese invasion, and subsequent guerrilla fighting to oppose the occupiers, helped win the war for the Allies in the Pacific Theater. Unfortunately, after the war Congress revoked its promises by passing the 1946 Rescission Act. This act declared that the Filipinos’ participation in the war was not considered “active military service,” and it retroactively annulled their rights, privileges, and benefits as veterans.

Individuals and groups petitioned Congress for many years after the war, seeking to overturn the Rescission Act and gain recognition for Filipino veterans. The mission of FilVetREP is: “To raise awareness through academic research and public education and obtain national recognition of the Filipino-American WWII soldiers for their wartime service to the United States and Philippines from July 1941 to December 1946.”

In 2009 Congress set aside $198 million to provide lump-sum payments of $9,000 or $15,000 to each surviving Filipino veteran. (Some 16,000 to 18,000 are still alive. Now in their 80s and 90s, an estimated 10 to 15 of them pass away every day.) Back in 1946 Congress had offered a little bit more ($200 million) as “compensation” to the Philippines—on the condition that Filipino veterans forfeit their rights under the G.I. Bill of Rights. The Philippine government refused this offer. Congress’s goal, simply put, was to save money: the value of the veterans’ benefits was estimated at $1 billion, or even more. General Omar Bradley reported to President Harry Truman that it would take $3 billion to fulfill America’s obligations to its Filipino military veterans. That analysis was made in 1946. It would have included death benefits, disability benefits, payments made to orphans and widows, mustering-out pay, on-the-job training for disabled vets, ongoing medical care, burial gratuities, and other benefits normally granted to U.S. military veterans.

In 2015, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act finally recognized the dedicated service of these vets—long after many of them had passed away. “The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor, and dedication that the Filipino Veterans of World War II displayed,” Congress stated in the text of the Act. “Their commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor.”

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee


Retired Major General Antonio Teguba, chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project.

How is the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee involved in this overdue recognition? The CCAC is a congressionally established public committee that advises the secretary of the Treasury on designs and themes for U.S. coins and medals. The scope of this mandate includes Congressional Gold Medals, our legislature’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Congressional Gold Medal bills are approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, then signed into law by the president. The bill for the Filipino veterans’ Congressional Gold Medal was signed by President Barack Obama. Then, officials of the United States Mint met with the sponsors of the authorizing legislation and members of FilVetREP to begin discussion of possible designs for the medal.

I had a chance to speak with Major General (ret.) Antonio Taguba before the part of our CCAC meeting that focused on the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal. (This was the second item on our agenda, following several hours reviewing World War I armed forces medals.) General Taguba was the second officer of Filipino heritage to attain the rank of general in the U.S. Army. He serves as chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. He was accompanied by the group’s general counsel, Erick Soriano; executive secretary Jon Melegrito; Marie Blanco, chief of staff of Senator Daniel Inouye; and Craig Shimizu, staffer for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. We had a nice chat and General Taguba updated me on his group’s fundraising efforts and record-gathering. They plan to purchase bronze duplicates of the Congressional Gold Medal to present to surviving veterans and to the families of those who have passed.

Addressing the committee, General Taguba spoke about the history of the war, President Roosevelt’s mobilization of the Philippines starting in July 1941, the actions of Filipino soldiers and guerrillas, and the 1946 Rescission Act. He then showed us a short version of the video documentary “Duty to Country,” narrated by Joe Mantegna, which can be seen online at

My Personal Connection to the Filipino Veterans of World War II

Grandfather-in-law Teofilo R. Rojas Sr. in 1929, as a graduating Doctor of Dental Surgery, University of the Philippines, Manila.

Grandfather-in-law Teofilo R. Rojas Sr. in 1929, as a graduating Doctor of Dental Surgery, University of the Philippines, Manila.

Circa 1941, as an officer of the Philippine Constabulary, which became part of the USAFFE.

Circa 1941, as an officer of the Philippine Constabulary, which became part of the USAFFE.

During a committee recess I gave greetings to General Taguba from my mother-in-law, whom he had met before. Her father was a Filipino veteran of World War II, and she is active in education and recognition efforts. He knew in advance that I would be reading a letter from her into the record of the committee’s meeting.

I explained to the committee that this subject is an important and very emotional one for the Filipino side of my family, and for many other Filipino and American families. The following is my mother-in-law’s statement to the committee. Her father was a doctor before the war, and he joined the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) when President Roosevelt ordered its organization in July 1941.

The Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Dennis Tucker

Dr. Erlinda Rojas Santos, Denver, Colorado
Daughter of Major Teofilo R. Rojas Sr., U.S. Army Forces in the Far East
(Deceased Filipino WW II Veteran / POW)

As the sole survivor of the immediate family of Major Teofilo Rino Rojas, I wish to express our gratitude to the CCAC and the United States Mint for your important participation toward the design of the long-deserved Congressional Gold Medal of recognition for the Filipino veterans of World War II. It is a bitter-sweet victory to finally anticipate this gesture of respect and honor for those who served and died, after waiting almost 75 years for the approval of the United States Congress.

My late mother Rosario, brother Teofilo Jr., and I suffered also the rigors and dangers of the war, and the painful memories are still clear in my mind. My sister Vicenta was born in 1945 in a hut in the marshes far from the edges of the Maguindanao River in the province of Cotabato in Mindanao, the southernmost island of the Philippines, as we fled farther and farther away from the pursuing Japanese armies that patrolled even in the dead of night. Daddy was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, a mountainous province in central Mindanao, far from us. After the Liberation our dad reverted to civilian life from his military service, as he requested to return to his private clinical practice as a dental surgeon. My younger brother Cornelio was born in 1950. Sadly, all of my family members are now gone and I am alone to savor a tinge of hope for a long-awaited glory for my father, who went through immeasurable danger. The wartime distress and injury that lingered on through the rest of his life necessitated his trips for medical exams and hospitalization at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, Luzon, where he died in 1988. His casket was draped with the American flag. His veteran buddies had often convened in meetings at our home to plan measures to address their needs to the United States government. Over the years their lights also were dimmed, in death or terminal illness.

How proudly my dad would have stood in his military stance were he around to receive personally this medal. Surely a tear would be shed—a moment to crown his service as a member of the Medical Corps of the United States Army Forces in the Far East! As an orphan and a widow, 81 years plus in age come that awarding ceremony, I shall be a forlorn figure, hopefully still able to receive on his behalf the bronze duplicate of the coveted Congressional Gold Medal in my trembling hands, with prayerful thanks.

Dr. Erlinda Rojas Santos, daughter of Major Teofilo Rino Rojas

It was difficult for me to read this letter without being overcome with emotion, knowing the history of this part of the war and the Rescission Act of 1946, and the sad way it touched so many lives.

CCAC Discussion of the Medal’s Design

Several CCAC members—all of whom are well educated in American history—remarked that they weren’t aware of this aspect of World War II. The tragic extent of Filipino losses in the Bataan Death March (which killed some 10,000 Filipinos and 700 Americans), the injustice of the Rescission Act, and other stories never entered the mainstream narrative of the war’s history. Committee member Mike Moran noted that his home state of Kentucky’s public schools don’t emphasize or even specifically mention the sacrifice of Filipinos in Bataan.

Committee members described the Congressional Gold Medal as being long overdue.

Erik Jansen asked that the design of the medal take a symbolic approach, featuring “no guns, no soldiers charging hills.” Dr. Herman Viola also recommended that it avoid combat scenes, focusing instead on the richness of Filipino culture. Robert Hoge suggested that the medal show the horror of war juxtaposed with a view of the paradise destroyed by warfare. Donald Scarinci advised the members of FilVetREP to reach consensus amongst themselves on a desired design or two or three, and then to “trust the Mint’s artists and have confidence in their talents.”

Heidi Wastweet encouraged the use of symbolism, and cautioned against trying to include too much detail. “Including one regiment or battle excludes others,” she noted. She also recommended against showcasing the 1946 revocation of the veterans’ rights. “Focus on what they did,” she said, “and not what they were denied.”

Jeanne Stevens-Solmann described this as “an unusually emotional gold medal, and well deserved.” She asked that the Mint’s artists address it “with amazing care,” noting the “huge responsibility to portray what’s happened in the 75 years that have passed with nothing happening.” From a design perspective, she said that “Sometimes the text can be the art,” suggesting that lettering in a spiral or other artful form, as part of the design, can be used to represent life.

Committee Chair Mary Lannin suggested the symbolism of the sun, which brings life—perhaps showing a Bataan prisoner marching toward the sun.

Mike Moran suggested that the medal should focus on the individual aspect of the war. My own suggestion was to show a young Filipino soldier in 1941, at the time that President Roosevelt activated the USAFFE, and the same soldier, much older now and finally recognized by Congress, in 2016.

Next Steps for the Congressional Gold Medal

General Taguba and his colleagues from the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project heard our committee’s recommendations on designs and concepts. They will discuss ideas internally and come to a consensus on what they’d like to see on the medal. The Mint’s artists will use that guidance to create design proposals (sketches). Some months from now, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (which also advises on coinage and medal designs) will each review these sketches in conjunction with representatives of FilVetREP.

In practice, by the time a Congressional Gold Medal’s honored organization or sponsoring group decides what designs it wants on its medal, the CCAC will advise only on technical aspects (e.g., if fine details of a design would be too small for minting), rather than on the theme or specific elements used in the design.

After reviewing potential designs, the CCAC and the CFA will each give our formal recommendations to the secretary of the Treasury. He will then make the final decision on the medal’s obverse and reverse designs. The designs will be sculpted by engravers at the Philadelphia Mint, and then struck in gold. The single gold example of the medal will be presented to the Smithsonian Institution for display (and to share with other museums and groups for education), and three-inch bronze examples will be available for purchase by the general public.

While we await the final version of this important and long overdue medal, we can learn more about Filipino veterans of World War II at   ❑

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