Posted on November 03, 2021
The United States is a vast country containing many amazing things: subtropical wetlands, rugged mountains, arctic landscapes and arid deserts, the world’s largest and tallest trees, landscapes as diverse as its citizenry. This is exactly what Katharine Lee Bates embodied when she wrote “America the Beautiful,” which would become one of the country’s most patriotic songs.
In a similar effort to harness the natural beauty and historical wonders of the country, the United States Mint created a series of coins that honors the spirit and history of this great nation.
The United States Mint developed an idea to mint 56 new circulation quarters with distinct reverse designs honoring some of the country’s most important sites, national parks, and historical landmarks. With five new releases each year, the America the Beautiful Bullion Coin Series has become a beautiful collection coveted by coin enthusiasts.
In parallel, the first bullion coin was released in 2010 and started the series of 56-coins to be released over the ensuing years designed in 5 oz silver with 0.999 purity.
In 1999, the United States launched a 10-year program to mint quarters honoring each state in the country. The United States Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program was so successful that a new initiative was designed to build on the previous success of the state quarters.
So, in 2008, Congress passed Public Law 110-456, otherwise known as the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008. The mission of the legislation was as follows:
“To provide for a program for circulating quarter dollar coins that are emblematic of a national park or other national sites in each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory of the United States, and for other purposes.”
This time, Congress wanted not just to honor states themselves but essential landmarks within each state. This would give national parks and historic monuments more visibility throughout the country. And along with producing quarters, Congress legislated that 5 oz silver bullion coins be minted as well.
The America the Beautiful series was structured so that five quarters and silver bullion coins were released each year until all 56 coins in the series were minted. But instead of the mint controlling each design, it was decided that the states themselves would have an active role in the design of each coin. However, states did not control which sites would be used as the inspiration for each coin. This job was left to former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner in conjunction with the governor or other local officials in each state.
The Treasury Secretary announced several standards required of each proposed design:
Several organizations reviewed the design process for these coins. The Commission of Fine Arts, which was first established to oversee the design of all construction within Washington D.C., was given authority in 1921 by then-President Warren Harding also to manage the design of coinage in the country. The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee also plays a role as an impartial body of numismatic experts and enthusiasts who submit design recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury.
The design process of America the Beautiful Bullion Coins went as follows:
Striking and releasing the America the Beautiful series didn’t go as smoothly as the U.S. Mint hoped. For one, Congress mandated that the silver bullion coins weigh 5 oz, and have a diameter of 3 inches. For comparison, the Morgan silver dollar is just 1.5 inches in diameter. The U.S. Mint didn’t have the production capacity or equipment to strike coins of this size at the time.
So, to produce new 5 oz coins in compliance with the law, the Philadelphia Mint was forced to purchase and install a new German coining press that operated at 1,000 metric tons of pressure and could manage three-inch dies to strike the coins. This press is capable of minting up to 1 million coins per year. Additionally, new silver planchets from Sunshine Minting — the leading supplier of blank silver planchets to the U.S. Mint — were purchased as well.
At first, the mint expected to strike 100,000 of each coin in the series but, due to production struggles, ultimately landed on striking a maximum of 33,000 coins for the first five coins in the series. After announcing the reduction in minting, excitement and demand for the coins only grew before their release. Since the Mint doesn’t sell directly to consumers and instead utilizes a network of Authorized Purchasers, many were concerned that the price premium on these highly coveted coins was getting out of control. A U.S. Mint spokesperson acknowledged these concerns even before the coins were released:
“The United States Mint is aware of reports of concern by many consumers about the high prices and premiums being charged in the market for the newly released America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins.”
Then, in a memo to its Authorized Purchasers, the Mint announced it was delaying the release of the America the Beautiful series, citing many public complaints about the high premiums being charged:
“Due to the limited availability of the 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin coins, public anticipation has been extremely strong. Since the press release was issued, the United States Mint has received numerous calls and inquiries from the public regarding premiums being charged for these coins. As a result, we are delaying the launch of this program. No America the Beautiful Ounce Silver Bullion Coins orders will be confirmed today.”
But even when the bullion coins were released, they weren’t all valued equally. Like the 2017 coin commemorating Frederick Douglass, some coins quickly doubled in retail value, while others, like one depicting the Ozarks, saw their value rise only slightly. The wide varieties in total mintage numbers and designs have resulted in some America the Beautiful bullion coins becoming desirable collectors’ items.
While the reverse side of each America the Beautiful coin is different, the obverse side of all coins is the same. The obverse features a portrait of George Washington originally designed by John Flannagan for the 1932 quarter, which dates back to a 1786 portrait sculpture of the former president by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
The obverse is adorned with “United States of America” across the top, “Quarter Dollar” across the bottom, and the words “Liberty” and “In God We Trust” on either side of Washington’s profile. The reverse side depicts different images for each coin, although all 56 coins display the year of minting across the bottom, the state or locality the coin honors, and the words “E Pluribus Unum.”
Weighing 5 oz and at 3 inches in diameter, these coins are enormous. They more closely resemble coasters than they do typical coins. Because of their sheer size and weight, it is much easier to appreciate the level of design detail on these silver bullion coins.
|Coin||State/Locality||Coin Reverse Image||Release Date||Minting|
|Hot Springs National Park||Arkansas||The façade of the park's Spanish colonial-style headquarters||4/19/2010||33,000|
|Yellowstone National Park||Wyoming||The famous Old Faithful geyser pictured behind a bison||6/1/2010||33,000|
|Yosemite National Park||California||A granite monolith known as El Capitan shown amongst the trees||7/26/2010||33,000|
|Grand Canyon National Park||Arizona||Marble Canyon, the northernmost section of the Grand Canyon||9/20/2010||33,000|
|Mount Hood National Forest||Oregon||Mount Hood with Lost Lake in the foreground||11/15/2010||33,000|
|Gettysburg National Military Park||Pennsylvania||The 72nd Infantry Monument at Cemetery Ridge||1/24/2011||126,700|
|Glacier National Park||Montana||The northeast slope of Mount Reynolds with a mountain goat in the foreground||4/4/2011||126,700|
|Olympic National Park||Washington||An elk standing at the Hoh River with Mount Olympus in the background||6/13/2011||104,900|
|Vicksburg National Military Park||Mississippi||The U.S.S. Cairo on the Yazoo River||8/29/2011||58,100|
|Chickasaw National Recreation Area||Oklahoma||The Lincoln Bridge with birds flying overhead||11/14/2011||48,700|
|El Yunque National Forest||Puerto Rico||A Puerto Rican parrot and Coqui tree frog||1/23/2012||24,000|
|Chaco Culture National Historical Park||New Mexico||The Chetro Ketl Complex||4/2/2012||24,400|
|Acadia National Park||Maine||The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse||6/11/2012||25,400|
|Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park||Hawai'i||An eruption of the Kilauea Volcano||8/27/2012||20,000|
|Denali National Park||Alaska||Mount Mckinley with a Dall sheep in the foreground||11/5/2012||20,000|
|White Mountain National Forest||New Hampshire||Mt. Chocorua with a serene lake in the foreground||1/28/2013||35,000|
|Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial||Ohio||Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry with the Peace Memorial||4/1/2013||30,000|
|Great Basin National Park||Nevada||A bristlecone pine tree||6/10/2013||30,000|
|Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine||Maryland||Fort McHenry during the Defenders Day celebration||8/27/2013||30,000|
|Mount Rushmore National Memorial||South Dakota||Workers doing work on Thomas Jefferson's face at Mount Rushmore||11/4/2013||35,000|
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park||Tennessee||A log cabin at the Great Smoky Mountains||1/27/2014||33,000|
|Shenandoah National Park||Virginia||A man hiking at Little Stony Man summit||3/31/2014||25,000|
|Arches National Park||Utah||Delicate Arch||6/9/2014||22,000|
|Great Sand Dunes National Park||Colorado||Father and son in the sand next to a creek bed||8/25/2014||22,000|
|Everglades National Park||Florida||An anhinga and roseate spoonbill||11/3/2014||34,000|
|Homestead National Monument of America||Nebraska||A depiction of homesteading in Nebraska||2/9/2015||35,000|
|Kisatchie National Forest||Louisiana||A wild turkey in flight||4/13/2015||42,000|
|Blue Ridge Parkway||North Carolina||A winding road on the Blue Ridge Parkway leading up to a tunnel||6/22/2015||45,000|
|Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge||Delaware||A great blue heron and great egret||9/14/2015||45,000|
|Saratoga National Historical Park||New York||General John Burgoyne's 1777 surrender to General Horatio Gates during the American Revolutionary War||11/16/2015||45,000|
|Shawnee National Forest||Illinois||Camel Rock with a red-tailed hawk overhead||2/1/2016||105,000|
|Cumberland Gap National Historical Park||Kentucky||A pioneer on a mountaintop gazing to the west||4/4/2016||75,000|
|Harpers Ferry National Historical Park||West Virginia||John Brown Fort||6/6/2016||55,300|
|Theodore Roosevelt National Park||North Dakota||Theodore Roosevelt on horseback at the Little Missouri River||8/29/2016||40,000|
|Fort Moultrie||South Carolina||Sergeant William Jasper returning the regimental flag during the Civil War||11/14/2016||35,000|
|Effigy Mounds National Monument||Iowa||The mounds in the Marching Bear Group||2/6/2017||35,000|
|Frederick Douglass National Historic Site||District of Columbia||Frederick Douglass seated at a writing desk||4/3/2017||20,000|
|Ozark National Scenic Riverways||Missouri||The steel roller mill, Alley Mill||6/5/2017||20,000|
|Ellis Island||New Jersey||An immigrant family approaching Ellis Island||8/28/2017||40,000|
|George Rogers Clark National Historical Park||Indiana||George Rogers Clark and his men charging toward Fort Sackville during the Revolutionary War||11/13/2017||35,000|
|Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore||Michigan||Chapel Rock||2/19/2018||30,000|
|Apostle Islands National Lakeshore||Wisconsin||Devils Island and a lighthouse in the background||4/13/2018||30,000|
|Voyageurs National Park||Minnesota||A common loon in the water with rock cliffs in the background||6/14/2018||30,000|
|Cumberland Island National Seashore||Georgia||A snowy egret on a branch||912/2018||52,500|
|Block Island National Wildlife Refuge||Rhode Island||A black-crowned night-heron in flight at Cow Cove||11/26/2018||80,000|
|Lowell National Historical Park||Massachusetts||A woman using a power loom at a mill with Lowell in the background||2/7/2019||80,000|
|American Memorial Park||Northern Mariana Island||A woman at the Flag Circle and Court of Honor||4/4/2019||80,000|
|War in the Pacific National Historical Park||Guam||American troops ashore at Asan Bay during World War II||6/6/2019||72,500|
|San Antonio Missions National Historical Park||Texas||Elements of the Spanish Colonial Real coin||8/29/2019||55,200|
|Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness||Idaho||A drift boat ashore among rocks and trees||11/14/2019||25,000|
|National Park of American Samoa||American Samoa||A Samoan fruit bat mother and child||2/6/2020||45,000|
|Weir Farm National Historic Site||Connecticut||An artist painting at Julian Alden Weir's studio at Weir Farm||5/18/2020||45,000|
|Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve||U.S. Virgin Islands||A red mangrove tree||9/18/2020||45,000|
|Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park||Vermont||A girl planting a Norway spruce seedling||11/23/2020||45,000|
|Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve||Kansas||A Regal Fritillary butterfly||12/7/2020||45,000|
|Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site||Alabama||A Tuskegee Airman pilot putting on his helmet with two World War II-era P-51 Mustangs overhead||4/8/2021||50,000|
As previously mentioned, the America the Beautiful series was so well-received that it caused a spike in prices before the first coins were even released. And while all five coins released in 2010 were minted at a rate of 33,000, this quickly changed.
Seeing that demand for the coins was so high, the U.S. Mint produced 126,700 bullion coins beginning with the first coin minted in 2011 for Gettysburg National Military Park. While this production continued with the following coin (Glacier National Park), production quickly was reduced again, and by 2012 less than 30,000 coins were being produced for each coin release.
In the past year, demand for the series has heated up. This demand increase has been spurred, in part, by rising silver prices, which have gone from $15 per ounce in 2020 to higher than $25 per ounce in 2021.
The most recently released coin honoring Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site was minted with 50,000 silver bullion coins. While many critical national landmarks and sites were honored during this process, plenty of important sites were left off the list. Some notable omissions include:
America the Beautiful silver bullion coins are an outstanding achievement for the United States Mint. These coins continue to be recognized and collected for their diversity and beautiful designs, along with their minting quality.
For more information about each individual coin, check out the Silver America the Beautiful page at BullionMax.