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So-Called 1920 Wilson Dollar - Manila Mint Opening

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President Woodrow Wilson authorized the reopening of the former mint in the Philippines that had been built by Spain between 1857-62. Under Spanish control this mint produced coinage for the Philippines through 1898. All coins produced between 1885 and 1898, all bore the 1885 date and were indistinguishable from those of 1885. Shortly after the Spanish-American War and the brief Philippine Insurgency, the Philippine Islands became a territory of the United States, and a new coinage type was produced for the Philippines. In 1903, first at the Philadelphia Mint, and later that year at the San Francisco Mint, coins were produced for Philippines general circulation, and at the San Francisco facility through 1919, with some cents also in 1920.

President Woodrow Wilson authorized the refurbishing and reopening of the old Philippine Mint building in 1920. On July 16, 1920, the new U.S. Mint in Manila, P.I., officially opened. This is still the only time in U. S. history that a Branch United States Mint was established on foreign soil; ie: outside of the Continental U.S. To commemorate this event, three different medals were coined. These are the So-Called Wilson Dollars. They were struck in Bronze, Silver, and Gold.

The dies for these medals were designed by Clifford Hewitt. The obverse displays a well executed portrait of the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson facing left, crowned by the legend:  PRESIDENT  OF  THE  UNITED  STATES;   very similar to the official Presidential Medal. The reverse is a representation of  a symbol of  "Justice"  kneeling, and watching over a nude boy pouring coin blanks into a coining press. In  "Justice's"  right hand, with arm held high above the boy, is a balance scale. The crowning legend reads:  TO  COMMEMORATE  THE  OPENING  OF  THE  MINT  and beneath it all was  MANILA  P.I.  The Manila mintmark  "M" is punched between "Justice's" left foot and the rim. The reverse die was executed by George Morgan, designer of the Morgan Dollar.

                Allen #            DATE             MINTAGE              METAL             SIZE

                A# M-1          1920 m               2,200                   Silver              38mm

                A# M-2          1920 m               3,700                   Bronze            38mm

                A# M-3          1920 m           5 (3-known)              Gold               38mm

The original price for these medals was $1 for the Silver, and .50c for the Bronze. The Gold specimens were struck for V.I.P.s, and only three are currently accounted for. These coins were never authorized to be used as "Legal Tender", although there is evidence that many pieces did indeed circulate. It is estimated that in January 1942, as many as 1000 Silver, and at least 2000 Bronze pieces were still on hand in the Mint (having remained unsold) vaults. When it became imminent that the Philippine Islands would fall any day to the invading forces of the Empire of Japan, the decision was made to dump all remaining silver coins and bullion reserves not yet evacuated to the United States, into the ocean depths south of Corregidore in  Caballo Bay. The remaining Wilson Dollars were also dumped along with the bullion. Since 1945, many pieces have been salvaged. All but very few specimens show the signs of salt water erosion and surface disruption. Particular scrutiny should be paid to the rim areas of any pieces being offered as "original" or "non-salvaged" pieces, which are worth considerably more. Oddly enough, despite the higher mintage, the Bronze pieces have proven to be many times more difficult to find in true uncirculated condition.

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