I. R. Bama's Blog

04 Nov 2020

"Carry Me Back to Ol' Virginny" Part 2: The Jamestown 400th Anniversary Silver Dollar

Coins-United States | I. R. Bama

Once upon a time, three ships left London on a transatlantic voyage to the New World and came to Virginia. Just 5 days before Christmas in 1606, The Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery arrived on the coast of present day Virginia off the middle peninsula with a crew of 39 members and 105 passengers who were the first colonists arrived in late April of 1607.

After exploring the coastal waters a site was selected for colonization on May 13th. This site became known as Jamestown. It became the first established English colony in America. Many people mistakenly believe that the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts was the first English North American colony, but that colony was not founded until 1620.

As I mentioned before, we here in the Old Dominion love our history, and in school we got a double dose of Virginia history, once in third grade and once in seventh grade, just to be sure it "took" is my best guess. But the history we were taught made the establishment of the colony as a pretty easy accomplishment, but indeed it was not. We are told about how the Powatan Paramount Chieftain Indians helped the colonists initially and yes, that much is true, but there were many conflicts off and on between the native people and the colonists. Some conflicts were the fault of the colonists and some were the fault of the local Indians; the Pamunky and the Mattiponi tribe initially, and later the Saponi and Chickahomany as the settlers began to expand settlements into other nearby areas.

Ever notice how we are fed our history in absolutes of good and bad? That is not how life generally works folks. It seems like when history is rewritten these days it is not a nuanced presentation. It's pretty much a 180 degree rewrite. Then again, what I was taught was not particularly nuanced either, but I digress....

At times the colonists experienced starvation, as when relations with native neighbors were going well, they were able to trade for food with tools and other items, but when relations were bad, winters were very harsh and conditions were so dire that the colonists were forced into acts of cannibalism.

While the legend of Pocahontas saving Captain John Smith's life is no longer believed to be accurate, Pocahontas (Powatan's daughter) lived back and forth between her tribe and the English settlers and eventually married John Rolfe and moved to London where she lived out her life in London high society.

Now, on to the coin itself From Mega Red Deluxe Edition, 1st edition: the coin weighs 26.73, though the certificate of authenticity lists the weight as +/- .4 grams. It is 38.1 mm but again, the certificate of authenticity states it varies +/- 0.08 mm in diameter. It has a reeded edge and is composed of.90% silver and 10% copper. It was minted only in Philadelphia in 2007.There were proof and uncirculated issues.

In my eye, this is not a great coin because the design of the obverse is not historically accurate. The designer, Donna Weaver chose a theme of "Diversity" as opposed to aiming for accuracy. It depicts an American Indian, Captain John Smith and an African American woman. The historical inaccuracy is the fact that at the time of the founding in 1607, there were no African Americans present in Jamestown as the first slaves were brought over in 1619. She's one of the artists who has a slew of designs of modern commemoratives and some of the state quarters.

I have a lot more appreciation for the reverse of this coin. Designed by Susan Gamble, it depicts the three ships that brought the colonists to what became Jamestown, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery. She too has quite a few designs of modern commemoratives and circulating coins.

My quest continues to complete a set of Virginia commemoratives. Next on my list are two classic commemoratives, the Norfolk Bicentennial Half Dollar (1936) and the Lynchburg 1936 Sesquicentennial commemorative half dollar, Wish me good hunting!



Level 5

I've been to Colonial Williamsburg. It's a pretty cool place. I'd recommend it to anyone planning a vacation in Virginia. It's right up there with Skyline Drive and the Civil War battleground, Bull Run.

Long Beard

Level 5

Both the uncirculated and proof sets of silver and gold are on my list. Hopefully I'll be able to buy all four barring a quick sell out. Beautiful designs.


Level 5

PC crap is all the mint is considering over the next 10 years. I lived minutes from Jamestown and if you've never been you must go. If you love history Jamestown and the Williamsburg settlement is a must. I do not favor putting incorrect historical information on coins for any reason. Give me a well made coin with historical accuracy and I will like it every time. Great Blog, Later!

Only a sith deals in absolutes. Loved this blog! These are making me want to visit Virginia even more!


Level 5

That is a really riveting story! Thanks so much for sharing it with me! Thats a beautiful coin as well! Cheers, NM

It's Mokie

Level 6

The Mint promoting revisionist history? Yup, I believe it. Regardless of the merits of the subject matter, I think the obverse is too crowded, the ships on the reverse though, quite beautiful. Thanks for walking us through a bit of Virginia history, I had the opportunity to visit Tangier Island, Virginia a couple of years ago, loved the crab cakes and the Cornish accents.


Level 5

Sailing ships on a coin are always nice. Must of been some kind of life back then. Survival everyday. Nice blog and very interesting.


Level 7

Well I had my history mixed up with another settlement. Roanoke Virgina. That one disappeared . To this day no one knows what happened to them. Jamestown was.different they endured. I agree the coin should not be the the way it was done. But unless you know your history you would not this. Inaccurate info. Just like Ellis Island. A family with a child and no stars on this huge flag. The second mistake was in the 1990's the Supreme Court ruled that N.Y. owned part of Ellis Island. Only thing wrong only N Jersey was on it. History wrong coins.wrong. And people.buy it.. Great blog. They pick me up. Keep them coming!!


Level 6

Nothing was easy for people coming to the new world. I agree with you on the design, not the best. Many modern commemoratives are pretty blah!


Level 6

Really enjoyed your blog! Inaccurate Images... What? How can that be? haha Loved the ships! ; )

I. R. Bama

Level 5

The ships are the best part. They recreated them and they are down on the water at Jamestown today


Level 6

So this commemorative has inaccurate, "revisionist" images on it. Beautiful. Get ready for a bunch more of this Bull. I do like the reverse . My wife will love it. he is going through a sailing ships thing. Thanks ' Bama. Great blog..

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