Appearing for the third year in the United States Mint’s America the Beautiful Bullion Coin Program is the 2012 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. This series of coins is dedicated to the beauty of the United States and showcases fifty-six sites throughout the nation. The coins due to be issued as part of the program in 2012 are:
Puerto Rico – 2012 El Yunque National Forest Silver Bullion Coin
Authorized by the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008, these bullion coins are a companion series to the circulating America the Beautiful Quarter Dollars issued at approximately the same time. Not only are both series issued together, but both are required to have the same imagery on their obverses (heads side) and reverses (tails side).
For example, as George Washington, the first President of the United States, is found on the obverse of all recent quarters, his image will also appear on the obverse of the bullion pieces. As a side-note, Washington has been on the quarter since 1932 with a portrait by John Flanagan. William Cousins took the Flanagan portrait and slightly modified it in 1999 for the 50-State Quarter Program. That modified design will be used again on these America the Beautiful strikes.
The reverses for the program are where the beauty of America is to be showcased with designs emblematic of a national park or other site of national interest. One site was chosen from each state, the District of Columbia and the five territories of the United States (Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa) for a total of fifty-six. Chosen sites include locations such as national parks, national forests, national monuments, etc. The date which that site came under the direct control of the federal government dictates when the site is honored in the program based on a first managed, first honored system.
There are three major stipulations in the authorizing act which differentiate the bullion coins from the circulating quarters:
- The bullion pieces are to be struck from five ounces of .999 fine silver whereas the quarters are struck from a clad composition of nickel plated copper.
- Each bullion piece will have a diameter of three inches versus the quarters 0.955 inch diameter. Of note, the three inch diameter of the bullion coins make them the largest bullion pieces produced by the US Mint.
- Since the bullion coins are required to have the same obverse and reverse designs, their content will be edge inscribed on each piece showing five ounces and .999 fine silver.
Details on the chosen 2012 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin sites is shown below:
El Yunque National Forest
The area of the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is considered to be one of the oldest reserves in the Western Hemisphere. This is because King Alfonso XII of Spain ordered its protection in 1876.
As a result of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898 and the forest, of course, was part of the deal. In 1903, it was renamed the Luquillo Forest Reserve with a national forest designation coming in 1906. Then, in 1935 the name was changed to the Caribbean National Forest and it remained as that for over 70 years.
Finally, taking into account the historical and cultural feelings of the Puerto Rican people, President George W. Bush ordered the name changed once again to El Yunque National Forest in 2007.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Conserving the best concentration of pueblos in the United States, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico was established to protect a cultural district created over a millennia ago by ancient Pueblo Native Americans.
Located within the park are some of the largest buildings ever created in the western hemisphere before the 1800’s. To support this vast development, the ancient Pueblos even constructed roads, dams and irrigation systems. Modern-day scholars are unsure of the main purpose of the buildings with some believing they served as dwellings. Others think they were used as public places for trade.
Many factors are thought to have played a part in the demise of the civilization once located in the area. A series of droughts over several generations almost certainly had an impact along with declining resources in the area. (The timber used in construction of the buildings had the be brought in from the Chuska Mountains and the San Mateo Mountains, both over 60 miles away!)
Acadia National Park
Encompassing over 47,000 acres, Acadia National Park in Maine was established to preserve several islands and a portion of the Schoodic Peninsula. Included in the park is most of Mount Desert Island as well as a majority of Isle au Haut and parts of Baker Island.
Contrary to what many believe, the park consists of not only shoreline, but also mountains, woodlands and lakes. This diverse landscape makes it ideal as a place of habitation for many species including deer, foxes, bobcats and bears.
The park itself was first afforded some protection in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson created the Sieur de Monts National Monument. In 1919, it was elevated in status and renamed the Lafayette National Park after the Marquis de Lafayette, a well-known French supporter of the American Revolution. In 1929, the name was changed again to its current title of Acadia National Park.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located in Hawai’i as you might expect, but new travelers to the park are usually in awe over the unique attributes that it has to offer over others in the national system.
Created over millennia, the features of Volcanoes National Park have been attracting visitors from the earliest days of native peoples on the island. More recently, the first western visitors set eyes on Kīlauea (one of the volcanoes of the island) in 1823. By the 1840’s, the region had become somewhat of a tourist destination aided by a string of hotels built on the rim by local businessmen.
In 1916, Hawaii National Park was created becoming the eleventh national park in the country, and the first to be in a territory (Hawaii became a state in 1959).
Denali National Park
Among many others things, Denali National Park in Alaska contains the highest mountain in North America known as Mount McKinley (or Denali) at 20,320.
Unknown to many is the fact that McKinley actually has more of a rise than the more famous Mount Everest. Of course, Everest’s peak is much higher at 29,029 feet, but that mountain actually sits on a plateau with a height of over 17,000 feet, giving Everest a rise of only 12,000 feet. McKinley’s base is only 2,000 feet high giving the mountain in Alaska a rise of nearly 18,000 feet.
The naming of the mountain and the park that contains it has been a contentious issue for some time. It was known as "Denali" (meaning ‘The High One’) by the local indigenous peoples for a long time before prospector William A. Dickey named the mountain in honor of presidential candidate (and soon to be President of the United States) William McKinley. McKinley did not even have a connection with the area as he resided in Ohio.