When I woke up the morning of the second day of my trip, I was revitalized and ready to go for another day of sightseeing. I was in Washington D.C. on a class tour, and I had just spent the previous day exploring the city and viewing some of their monuments and government buildings. At the time, I did not realized how many of the things we were seeing were related to numismatics.
After breakfast, we hit the road and headed off to the Newseum. It is not directly honored on any coins because it is a private institution. However, my favorite exhibit, Pulitzer Prize winning photos is related to exonumia, however, with the medals that are given out to the winners. The sculptor Daniel Chester French also created the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. I enjoyed seeing the history of how people got their news. Another cool part of the museum was a section of the Berlin Wall and a East German guard tower.
The second stop of the day, the White House, proved to have many more numismatic connections. Along with being the home for every single president featured on United States coinage, other than George Washington, the building had a silver dollar honoring its 200th anniversary in 1992. It proved to be a popular issue, with almost all of the 500,000 coins authorized getting sold. The $10 surcharge on each coin went towards the preservation of public rooms within the White House. We were not lucky enough to be selected to tour the building, but we did get to take some pictures outside the gates.
Next, we boarded the bus and made our way over to the Smithsonian museums, where we split up into small groups and explored on our own. My group first decided to go to the Museum of Natural History. Inside, we saw many animals, including an enormous bull elephant; the Hope Diamond; and an extensive collection of prehistoric animal fossils. While this was very interesting, I really wanted to go to the Museum of American History, where the National Numismatic Collection is held. Lucky for me, we got through the first museum quickly with enough time left over to walk to the Museum of American History. After we passed through security and looked through a couple galleries, I went directly to a worker and asked where they had the coins. We followed her directions and sure enough, we arrived at the numismatic exhibit. There was a huge door reminiscent of a bank vault that stood open when we passed through the entrance. Inside, I saw many rarities such as a 1933 Double Eagle, a “Grand Watermelon” $1000 note, and a stone from the island of Yap. It was my favorite numismatic experience of the entire trip. To my dismay, my time in the exhibit was cut short as the rest of my group quickly lost interest and pulled me off to the next attraction.
Luckily, what the wanted to see was one of the most interesting things I saw on the trip, the original Star Spangled Banner. This was the flag that Francis Scott Key saw flying over Fort McHenry and inspired him to write our nation’s national anthem. The flag itself was rather worse for wear; it had been cut up for souveniers in the late 1800’s and was pretty tattered. Even so, it was an incredible sight to the very flag that waved “o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave”. In 2012, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 was commemorated on both a silver dollar and a gold five dollar coin. The Star-Spangled Banner is proudly waved by Miss Liberty on the obverse of the silver dollar with Fort Mchenry in the background. The reverse in dominated by the folds of the flag. On the half eagle, two ships are shown in battle on the obverse. On the other side, the opening line to the national anthem is shown against a background of stripes.
The Smithsonian Institution itself was honored on a pair of coins in 1996.The castle is shown on the obverse of the silver dollar with the Goddess of Knowledge sitting on a globe on the reverse. The half eagle has a simpler design with a bust of James Smithsonian on the obverse and the “sunburst” logo on the reverse.
After my group and I finished going through the American History Museum, we loaded up on the tour bus and made our way to Ford’s Theatre. When we arrived, we all got tickets to and waited in a long line for what seemed to be forever. It was very odd to see such a historic place located in the middle of a city. Eventually, we filed in. From first impressions, it looked like a normal theatre. However, the president’s box was a constant reminder of the historical importance of the building.
By the time we all got out of the theatre, rain was beginning to fall. Instead of being miserable and seeing the memorials in a downpour, we all decided to save that for the next day.