Q. David Bowers
Korean War Memorial
In 1991 commemorative silver dollars were pro-duced to observe the 38th anniversary of the end of the Korean War (originally called the Korean Con-flict) and to honor those who served there. Coins were struck in Uncirculated and Proof finishes. Public Law 101-495 approved on October 31, 1990, provided for the mintage of not more than one million coins, all to be struck during the calendar year 1991. A $7 surcharge was intended "to establish and erect the Korean War Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital to honor those who served."
The enabling act provided that "Each coin shall bear a designation of the value of the coin, an in-scription of the years '1953-1991,' and the inscriptions of the words 'Liberty,' 'In God We Trust,' 'United States of America,' and 'E Pluribus Unum.' " The designs were selected by the secretary of the Treasury after consultation with the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission, according to a Treasury Department news release. Designs were solicited only from employees of the Engraving Department of the United States Mint.
The obverse design of the Korean commemorative dollar is by John Mercanti. Featured are two F-86 Sabrejet fighter aircraft flying to the right, a helmeted soldier carrying a backpack climbing a hill, and the inscriptions: THIRTY EIGHTH/ ANNIVERSARY / COMMEMORATIVE / KOREA / IN GOD / WE TRUST /1953/1991. At the bottom of the coin are five Navy ships above the word LIBERTY.
The reverse of the Korean War anniversary silver dollar, the work of T. James Ferrell, depicts an outline map of North and South Korea, divided. An eagle's head (representing the United States) is depicted to the right. Near the bottom is the symbol of Korea. Inscriptions included E / PLURIBUS / UNUM (in three lines), ONE DOLLAR, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Minting and Marketing
The Korean War coin program was limited only to silver dollars, and was fulfilled with coins struck at the Philadelphia (Proof finish coins) and Denver (Uncirculated finish) mints. The first-strike ceremony for the issue was held at the Philadelphia Mint on May 6, 1991.
Two purchase options were offered: (1) Proof 1991-P silver dollar: $28 if ordered by May 31, 1991, and $31 if ordered later; (2) Uncirculated 1991-D silver dollar: $23 if ordered by May 31, 1991, and$26 if ordered later. With the lowest authorized mintage of any commemorative silver dollar since the resumption of commemorative coins in 1982, the U.S. Mint expressed concern-needlessly, it turned out-about the possibility of a sellout.
Coins were available from April 17, 1991 through March 31, 1992. Coins were not minted after De-cember 31, 1991. When totals were computed, it was found that 213,049 Uncirculated 1991-D coins had been sold, and 618,488 1991-P Proofs. The $7 surcharge included in the price of each coin raised $5,820,759 toward the construction of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Commemorating: 38th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
Obverse motif: Soldier and the implements of war.
Reverse motif: Map of Korea.
Authorization date: October 31, 1990.
Dates on coins: 1991 (and 1953).
Date when coins were actually minted: 1991.
Mints used: Philadelphia and Denver.
Maximum quantity authorized: 1,000,000.
Total quantity minted: Information not released by the Mint.
Quantity melted: Information not released by the Mint.
Net number distributed: 213,049 Uncirculated 1991-D; 618,488 Proof 1991-P.
Issued by: U.S. Mint (Customer Service Center, United States Mint, 10001 Aerospace Road, Lanham, MD 20706).
Standard original packaging: Various options. Official sale prices: Proof Philadelphia Mint coins $28 in advance (later $31); Uncirculated Denver Mint coins $23 in advance (later, $26).
Designer of obverse: John Mercanti, Designer of reverse: T. James Ferrell.
Interesting facts: The Korean War commemorative dollar was produced in a rush; and there was no time for a design competition involving outside artists. In case anyone thought it was a regular is-sue silver dollar (none of which had been minted for distribution since 1935), an inscription notes it is a "COMMEMORATIVE," the only such self identifying coin in the series!