In its fifth year of running, the 2014 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins continue the US Mint’s tradition of a series of coins celebrating the beauty of the United States and its territories. The coins scheduled to appear as part of the 2014 releases are:
A unique feature of the five 2014 releases of the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins is that all of them honor national parks. While multiple other national parks are honored throughout the fifty-six coin 11-year run of the program, this year is the only one in which another site of national interest is not honored. Of course, this has no major impact on the series, it just happens to be the way in which the chosen sites were added to the federal system.
All of the coins in the series were authorized by the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 which stipulates that only sites of national interest be selected for the program. As such, not only national parks were included but sites like national forests, national monuments, national memorials as well. In order to insure a fair representation of the nation as a whole, only one site was selected from each state, the District of Columbia and the five US Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands). The coins release order is dictated by the order in which the site came under the direct control of the federal government.
Since the entire program is dedicated to the beauty of the United States, the reverses (tails side) of the coins will be reserved for the designs showcasing the selected sites. The US Mint will probably only reveal the final designs for the 2014 strikes early in that year before the first strike is released. However, interested individuals will be able to catch a glimpse of what the coins might look like in 2013 when the Mint releases the design candidates of each strike for review.
These bullion coins are required to be identical in design to the circulating quarters. As such, the portrait of George Washington that is seen on the quarters will be found on the obverse of the bullion strikes as well.
The bullion coins similarity to the quarters end at their design, however. The bullion coins will be much larger and struck from the precious metal silver. In fact, the bullion coins will be over three times as large with a diameter of three inches. Each coin will contain five ounces of .999 fine silver. In order to signify the bullion coins content, an edge inscription will show their weight and fineness.
Additional information on the selected sites for the 2014 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins is provided below:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee was officially established in 1934, but the area has a rich history that precedes that date. Since prehistoric times the mountains in the area have been home to native Americans.
By the time European settlers encroached on the region, the highly advanced Cherokee Indians already had established a well-developed political system, towns and even trails connecting them throughout the Smoky Mountains. Their way of life was about to change, however, as the American government began a process in 1830 to forcibly move all Native American tribes east of the Mississippi River to land in Oklahoma. The Cherokee tribes of the Smoky Mountains were no exception and their "trail of tears" is still well remembered today.
With most of the Indians removed, white settlers started to homestead in the region and unfortunately this led to a boom in the logging industry resulting in many clear-cut sections of forest land. By the early 1900’s, a movement had begun to protect the landscape but it met with little success owing to a lack of funds.
Shenandoah National Park
Probably best known for its scenic 105-mile Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia has so much more to offer its visitors.
Construction of Shenandoah began in 1926 as the state of Virginia started to slowly acquire land for use as a park through the legal process known as eminent domain. In the process, many families were forced to relocate and even several communities ceased to exist. By 1935, the state turned over this land to the federal government for the creation of Shenandoah National Park.
By far, the most popular attraction in the park is the aforementioned Skyline Drive. The scenic road bisects the park and runs along the ridge of the mountains. Most visitors find the fall the best time to visit as the leaves on the trees start to turn colors.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park in Utah preserves over 2,000 sandstone arches including the world-famous Delicate Arch which stands 52-feet high and is widely considered an icon of not only the park, but of Utah itself.
Native Americans frequented this area for centuries before settlers of European descent started living in the region in earnest in the late 1800’s. Still, the beauty of the area was relatively unknown until the 1920’s when a push was made to preserve it for future generations.
Several government investigations were made into the area, and in 1929 Arches National Monument was created out of two small disconnected sections. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enlarged the monuments acreage and it remained that way until 1969 when President Lyndon B. Johnson significantly enlarged the monument once again. However, most of this acquisition was reversed in 1971 by then President Richard Nixon when he signed new legislation decreasing the monuments size, but changing its status to a national park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado protects a system of dunes that is not only considered the tallest in North America but also one of the most fragile and complex in the world.
Contrary to what many believe, the system is far from being void of water. In fact, it is the presence of water in and around the dunes that keep the regenerative cycle going. If one were to dig down only a few feet, even at the dunes peak, you would start to find moist sand. The presence of this moisture prevents the entire dunes from blowing away. The top layer, however, does get blown off of the dunes, only to be caught up in a series of streams that surrounds them. These streams also slowly erode at the edge of the dunes as they pass by. As these streams slowly dry up the further they progress from their source, the sand they have caught gets blown back up onto the dunes, completing a full circle.
Included in the parks boundaries in addition to the dunes are several alpine lakes, ancient spruce and pine forests, high peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation and even some wetlands. This diverse collection of attractions draws over a quarter of a million visitors annually.
Everglades National Park
Unlike most national parks which were created to protect a geographic feature, Everglades National Park in Florida offers protection to a fragile ecosystem.
This ecosystem was created over thousands of years and once consisted of almost 11,000 square miles. But, with man’s encroachment by the early 1900’s, this delicate balance of nature was severely threatened. Seeing the land as more usable if farmed or built on, many drainage projects were initiated to remove the water.
Unknown by many, the Everglades is actually an extremely slow-moving river traveled at a rate of around .25 miles an hour. Fed by the Kissimmee River through Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades slowly dump into the Florida Bay. Before that occurs, however, the forces of the water create an environment that thousands of species call home.