The 2015 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins mark the sixth year of a program from the US Mint which honors the beauty of the United States by showcasing many of its best sites including national parks. The coins scheduled to appear as part of the 2015 releases are:
North Carolina – 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway Silver Bullion Coin
The chosen sites for the entire 11-year 56-coin America the Beautiful Program were all selected in 2009. The act which authorized them (America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008) dictated that only one site be chosen from each state, the District of Columbia and the five territories of the United States (Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and American Samoa). Also, the sites had to be of national interest meaning that they are under the control of the federal government like national parks, national forests, national monuments, etc.
Circulating quarter dollars were also authorized by the same act which created these bullion coins and both are required to have identical images to each-other including their obverses (heads side) and reverses (tails side). For the obverse of all of the coins, a portrait of the first President of the United States, George Washington, will be used. This does not come as much of a surprise as Washington has been on the quarters since 1932 when John Flanagan’s work was first placed there. William Cousins modified the Flanagan portrait slightly for the debut of the 50-State Quarter Program in 1999 and that slightly altered design will be used again on the America the Beautiful coins.
The reverse designs for the 2015 strikes will probably only be unveiled by the US Mint shortly before the first strike of that year is released. Design candidates, however, should appear early in 2014 for review by the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts. Both of these groups are charged with making recommendations on American coinage design. Their comments will be added to those of the Interior Secretary and the chief executive of each sites host location and forwarded by the Mint to the Treasury Secretary who will make the final selection.
The silver bullion coins have the distinction of being the largest produced by the US Mint. Each coin has a diameter of three inches and is struck from five ounces of .999 fine silver. Since the obverse and reverse designs are required to be identical to the designs found on the circulating quarters, the Mint was instructed to place the bullion coins content on an edge inscription on each coin to show its weight and fineness.
Information on the selected 2015 America the Beautiful sites is shown below:
Homestead National Monument of America
Answering a call for those wanting "Free Land", the Homestead National Monument of America located in Nebraska honors those courageous and rugged individuals who ventured West into the frontiers of America to claim a small bit of land that the government was willing to transfer to them for free (provided they met certain requirements).
President Abraham Lincoln signed the original Homestead Act in 1862 which allowed for those wanting to obtain land for farming the ability to do so at little or no cost. Public land in the new territories of the growing country was divided into 160 acres (or 1/4 of a square mile sections). Those wanting to obtain one of these parcels needed to file an application, make improvements to the land and then file for a deed of title.
The 160 acres, while small for a farm today, was considered to be the largest amount of land a farmer of the time could realistically utilize. However, due to technological improvements as well as less productive land further West, the Homestead Act was modified allowing for larger parcels to be homesteaded in the following decades. Finally, deciding that the remaining public lands could best be utilized for the general use of the country, the Homestead Act was officially repealed in 1976 by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
Kisatchie National Forest
Encompassing more than 604,000 acres in central and northern Louisiana, Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest located within the state’s boundaries.
Kisatchie consists of bayous, bald cypress groves and old growth pine in seven different parishes of the state with its headquarters located in Pineville. The forest is separated into five distinct ranger districts including Calcasieu, Caney, Catahoula, Kisatchie and Winn.
Many different recreational opportunities await those who take some time to enjoy the area and include boating, cycling, fishing, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use, horseback riding, etc. The forest also maintains forty different recreational sites and over 100 miles of trails.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Consisting of 469 miles of roadway, the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in both Virginia and North Carolina with well over 50% of its distance in the latter state. The scenic drive follows mostly along the Blue Ridge range which is part of the larger Appalachian Mountains.
The Parkways starts on its southern end at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which straddles North Carolina and Tennessee. It then runs through a significant portion of North Carolina before entering the state of Virginia and finally becomes Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive.
The entire parkway has the distinction of being the most visited unit in the entire National Park System, of which it is a part. It is not uncommon for the scenic road to see annual visitors in the range of well over 15 million. This popularity is owed in great part to its pristine beauty, but also to its proximity to a large portion of the American population.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge located in Delaware consists of 15,978 acres with a significant majority of that being tidal salt marsh. These marshes provide a constant supply of nutrient rich water flows that nourish the native plants which in turn creates an excellent refuge for many creatures.
Of these many creatures, the primary focus of the refuge are waterfowl and other migratory birds. Estimates place the number of species that can be found in refuge lands throughout the year at over 300 making it an ideal location for bird enthusiasts. Ducks and geese use the area as a winter haven or as a stop-over as the migrate further south and the threatened Bald Eagles can also usually be found here.
Elevation within the park averages less than ten feet above sea level but one can also find segments of timbered and grassy uplands. The refuge also hosts 1,000 plus acres of fresh-water pools and even some agricultural land.
Saratoga National Historical Park
Located forty miles north of Albany, New York, the Saratoga National Historical Park preserves the site of the American Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga. It was at this location that American forces met, fought and defeated British forces resulting in the infant country’s first major military victory.
The war was not going particularly well for the American side when General John Burgoyne’s British Army decided to cut of New England from the rest of the colonies in September of 1777. It was on these grounds that he first met and won victory over the Americans on September 19th of that year. Not completely crushed, the Americans re-grouped and forced another battle on October 7th wherein they were able to capture a portion of the British defenses.
This defeat forced Burgoyne to retreat where he found himself surrounded at Saratoga by the Continental Army. With few options left, Burgoyne and his forces surrendered. While seemingly a small victory, this event led to the country of France formally allying themselves with the United States and offering weapons and supplies in its effort to bring independence to the country.