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Coin Of the Month

Plinky's Coin of the Month
January 2000

Can you name this half dollar, which honors the 2,000-mile trail that brought people to the West?  In the mid-1800s, more than 300,000 people walked this "highway of history"—a trip that took five months!

Hint: This coin was the first commemorative struck at the Denver Mint.

It's the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar.  This historic route led people through six states on their way to the West—Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, the first people to travel the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon, made the trip in 1836.

Most travelers, though, made their trips between 1843 and 1869.  Today, you can still see wheel ruts along the trail, made by the ox-drawn wagons that travelers crammed with food, furniture, tools, and clothing!  (The first transcontinental railroad, a much faster and easier route to the West, was finished in 1869.)

A husband and wife team designed the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar.  According to Mint records, Laura Gardin Fraser designed both sides of the coin, with help from husband James Earl Fraser on the reverse (American Indian) side.  In 1926, the first of these coins were minted at Philadelphia and San Francisco.  Then in 1933, the coin was the first commemorative struck at the Denver Mint.

Obverse of Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar.
Obverse:  The Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar has an ox-drawn covered wagon being led west toward the setting sun on its obverse.

Reverse of Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar.
Reverse:  The coin's reverse shows a Native American standing in front of a U.S. map.



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