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Coin Of the Month

Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin

1923 Monroe Doctrine Centennial Half Dollar

This month's coin is special for sure, and in lots of ways.  First of all, what it honors is not so much a document, like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, but a policy (a statement about what to do as a nation) called the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine said, basically, that nations on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean should stay separate.  At the time it was issued (December of 1823), some European nations were talking about starting new colonies in the Americas or trying to regain control of countries there that had just become independent.  The Doctrine said the United States was willing to stand up for these countries and, at the same time, stay out of European affairs unless they were dangerous for American nations.

In creating this policy, President James Monroe had help from his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, and that's why both men are pictured on the coin.  In October, Monroe had written to his Virginia neighbor, former president Thomas Jefferson, to ask his advice.  Jefferson agreed with the policy.  President Monroe's doctrine, part of a talk he gave to Congress, set our nation's foreign policy for many years afterward.

Another special thing about this coin is the image on the back.  In place of a simple image of the North and South American continents, the artist showed two women posed to look like the continents!  Pretty cool, huh? The major ocean currents are shown flowing around these figures.

There's also a city name that you don't see on a coin very often:  Los Angeles, the home of the motion picture company that asked for the coin to be made, and the city where it was no doubt first sold.  Between the dates in the lower left, you can see a quill pen in front of a scroll, suggesting the Monroe Doctrine.  There's also a triple ridge around the rim, another feature you don't see often.  All these things add up to one special half dollar!


Image shows the front of the half dollar.
Obverse:  On the front: busts of two presidents, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.  Adams was Secretary of State at the time.

Image shows the back of the half dollar.
Reverse:  The figures-shaped-as-continents design had already been used in other places, like a seal for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901.  The major ocean currents are also shown.

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