The seventh strike of the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin™ Program is the 2011 Glacier America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin. This piece was officially the second release in the series to appear in 2011 and features a reverse design emblematic of Glacier National Park in Montana.
Sales of the coins began by the US Mint on April 25, 2011 along with the previous strike, the Gettysburg Silver Bullion Coin. On May 16, 2011 the US Mint indicated the entire mintage of 126,700 of each of those two strikes had been sold out.
Like all other Mint bullion products, these coins were not sold directly to the public. Instead, the US Mint initially sells bullion coins to a network of authorized purchasers. These purchasers obtain the coins in bulk, then resells them for a small premium above the current spot price of the precious metals contained within them.
All of the coins struck in the program will be composed of five ounces of .999 fine silver coin and have a massive diameter of three inches. Designs for the bullion coins will be identical to those featured on the sister series of America the Beautiful circulation quarter dollars.
George Washington (first President of the United States) is featured on the obverse or heads side of all the coins. The weight and fineness of the bullion piece will be inscribed on its edge.
On the reverse or tails side of the Glacier coin will be a design showcasing a portion of the national park. The chosen design for the Glacier Quarter (and thus this associated bullion coin) is described by the US Mint with:
"The Glacier National Park quarter reverse design depicts a classic view of the northeast slope of Mount Reynolds towering in the distance, while a mountain goat climbs over the rocky slopes of the park’s high country. Inscriptions are GLACIER, MONTANA, 2011 and E PLURIBUS UNUM. The coin’s reverse was designed by AIP Associate Designer Barbara Fox and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers."
This design was chosen from three design candidates originally presented by the US Mint for review by several individuals and groups. Among those groups was the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The three design candidates along with some of the comments provided by the CCAC and the CFA is shown below:
The CCAC unanimously preferred design number "MT-03" and said so in their comments.
"For the coin portraying Glacier National Park in Montana, the committee unanimously preferred design MT-03, which portrays a mountain goat over the rocky slopes of the park’s high country," stated the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. "Members were enthusiastic about the combination of an iconic mountain goat with the grandeur of the mountains, and felt that this design would translate into a very appealing coin."
The CFA also approved of "MT-03" with the following statement:
"The Commission recommended alternative #3, commenting that the Rocky Mountain goat is emblematic of the park and provides a desirable foreground feature that gives scale to the sweeping vista of the glaciated landscape," the CFA wrote in a letter to Mint Director Ed Moy.
The America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 dictates that the Treasury Secretary will make the final selection after seeking comment from the appropriate groups and individuals.
Both the America the Beautiful Quarters and Silver Bullion programs will feature up to five new designs each year beginning in 2010 through to 2021. Each of these coins in the eleven year series will have reverse designs that represent a selected National Park or National Site in each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The United States Mint will also be releasing a collector grade version of this coin known as the Glacier Silver Uncirculated Coin.
Glacier National Park in Montana
Native Americans frequented the lands for millennia before European explorers ever set eyes on the pristine landscape that would one day become Glacier National Park in Montana. The famed Lewis and Clark Expedition came within a mere 50 miles of the area in their early 1800’s trip, but it was not until the 1850’s before explorations truly started to map and document the beauties that were found.
The Great Northern Railway finally crossed the Continental Divide at Marias Pass (5,213 feet) in 1891 at what would become the southern boundary of the national park. This specific railroad had slowly been built over the years by only constructing new lines as the company deemed they would be profitable. As such, this stretch into the mountains of Montana was no exception.
Wanting to capitalize on their investment, the Great Northern immediately began advertising the beauty of the land to Easterners in the big cities and invited them to travel aboard their trains to see it for themselves. The company even lobbied Congress to take steps to protect the area and it was declared a forest preserve in 1897. Not content with that designation, individuals as well as the Railroad continued to promote the area and in 1910 it was re-classified a national park.
Still looking to make some money off of the deal, Great Northern president Louis W. Hill supervised the construction of several hotels and chalets inside and on the edge of the new park’s boundaries for their customers to stay in while in the area. These buildings were modeled after Swiss architecture to further enhance the railroads promotion of Glacier as "America’s Switzerland."
Finally, with thousands of people now visiting and wanting to see more of the park, plans were drawn up for a road to bisect it which would go further inside of the park than many had ever gone. The "Going-to-the-Sun Road" was completed in 1932 and runs for 53 miles passing over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (6,646 feet). The narrow and winding road almost immediately started hosting red tour busses known as "jammers", a site you can still see today.
Of course, as with most mountain regions, Going-to-the-Sun Road can be inundated with snow during the winter. Logan Pass sees up to 80-feet of snow and spring snow plowing can take weeks!
Today, over 2 million annual visitors come to Glacier National Park to take in its 1 million plus acres of mountain scenery.