The second strike in 2016 of the US Mint’s America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin™ Program will be the 2016 Cumberland Gap America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin. The coin is also the thirty-second from the program which debuted in 2010 and runs through 2021 where it will end after having fifty-six new coins created for it.
On the reverse of this coin, a portion of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park which is located in Kentucky will be featured. At this time, a final design for the coin is far from being selected. Design candidates should make their way into the public view in early 2015 when they are offered to the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts for their comments. Then in 2016 before the first America the Beautiful strike is released that year, the final design should be announced by the US Mint.
The America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 which authorized the series also dictates several other conditions for these silver bullion pieces. One is that each piece contain the same obverse that is found on the circulating quarter dollars also authorized by the act. As such, a portrait of the first President of the United States George Washington will be found on the heads side of the coin. Another condition requires that each bullion coin is struck from five ounces of .999 fine silver to a diameter of three inches. Finally, the coins weight and fineness will be edge inscribed on the strike.
Five new America the Beautiful bullion coins will appear each year under the program with the completed series showing one strike from each state in the union, the District of Columbia and the five US territories – Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each jurisdiction’s strike will showcase a site of national interest located within its boundaries such as a national park, national forest, national monument, etc.
All bullion pieces struck by the Mint are not available directly to the public. Instead, the Mint uses a network of authorized purchasers which buy the bullion coins in bulk. These purchasers then resell the coins in smaller quantities to coin dealers and individuals for a small premium over the spot price of the silver contained within them.
As stated before, the Cumberland Gap strike is the second in the program to appear for 2016. It will be preceded by a strike showcasing Shawnee National Forest of Illinois and will be followed by three strikes honoring Harpers Ferry National Historical Park of West Virginia, Theodore Roosevelt National Park of North Dakota and Fort Moultrie (Fort Sumter National Monument) of South Carolina.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park located in Kentucky not only preserves a location important to American history, but also the memory of the pioneers who passed through it.
The park is located on the border between Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia but its use far pre-dates those border distinctions. For centuries, the gap was used by Native Americans and even large groups of migratory animals such as herds of buffalo. This is because the Gap is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains which were tough to traverse, especially in less technologically advanced times.
By the time of the American Revolutionary War, pioneers wanting to settle further west than the original thirteen colonies began to use the Gap for their own passage. This continued for decades with a rail-road soon following. The strategic value of the Cumberland Gap became apparent with the start of the American Civil War and both sides took enormous steps to try and gain control of it. Under the possession of the Confederate States of America, many military improvements and fortifications were made, some of which can still be seen today.
All of the estimated 1 million annual visitors to the park do not come for the history, however. Many stop for the scenery, wildlife and the geology. The park service leads tours into the nearby Gap Cave which had been used by the Native Americans and early pioneers as a shelter to sit out some of the inclement weather that one might experience passing through the area.
Those interested in more of an outdoor experience will want to trek some of the 85-plus miles of trail that are found in the region.