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Monday, June 18, 2007

In Mint Condition

After George Washington died on December 14, 1799, the myth-making began. As author Joseph Ellis concludes in His Excellency: George Washington: “Over the ensuing years, the mythology that a new and more democratic nation required of its symbolic hero arose around him to form a smothering blanket of Lullabies. … ”

One of those legacies is Washington’s enduring image on our dollar bills and in 2007, on the U.S. Mint’s new dollar coins. Washington first appeared on a $1 United States note in 1869. After many variations and occasionally other portraits, our familiar dollar bill with the Gilbert Stuart portrait dates from 1963.

This year the U.S. Mint has launched its Presidential $1 Coin Program and George is among the first to circulate. His coin was released on February 15. Four coins will be minted each year over the next decade honoring our presidents in the order they served. The coins have some unique features. Each coin displays an image of the president on one side, the order he served and the years in office. Phrases that usually appear on the front of other coins are inscribed along the edge. These include: “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” the year of minting, and the mint mark.

For more on the man behind the money, check out the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection.

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