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Coin of the Month

Benjamin Harrison Presidential $1 Coin

This month I present the coin of 23rd president Benjamin Harrison.  He has a particular tie to the dollar coin, although the dollar coins of his time were made of silver.

In 1873, Congress had the Treasury stop minting silver dollars.  But a financial depression soon took hold of the nation for many reasons.  Some citizens wanted the government to inflate the money supply, to coin silver dollars once again, and to repeal the act that allowed Civil War greenbacks to be redeemed for gold as ways to fight the depression.  (Inflation makes the dollar less valuable. People who had debts liked inflation because it was easier to pay debts with cheaper dollars.)

By 1878, so many people insisted on silver and inflation that Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act, despite President Hayes’s veto.  The Act not only renewed the coinage of silver dollars but also required Treasury to buy between 2 and 4 million dollars worth of silver bullion each month at the market price.

Although that helped for awhile, a multi-year drought affected prices and caused farmers to go further into debt.  Mine owners were also alarmed by the falling price of silver.  Farmers and other indebted groups demanded relief.  President Harrison’s administration then passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890, which allowed the Treasury to buy 50 percent more silver and turn it into coins.

Debtors hoped that issuing new silver coins would expand the money supply and make it easier for them to pay their debts.  But restrictions were enacted as part of the legislation, and they kept the money supply from growing very much.

Read more about President Harrison on the Benjamin Harrison 2012 Presidential $1 Coin page.

— Peter

Peter, the Mint Eagle

Teacher Feature

Image shows the back of a Presidential $1 Coin.
Reverse:  The Statue of Liberty accompanies the inscriptions "United States of America" and "$1." Other inscriptions are found around the coin’s edge.

Image shows the front of the quarter-dollar coin.
Obverse:  Benjamin Harrison's profile is surrounded by his name, "In God We Trust," and "23rd President 1889-1893."




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