The next commemorative coin issue from the United States was the 1900 Lafayette Silver Dollar. In 1777, General Lafayette had brought French troops to America to help fight in the Revolutionary War. His efforts earned him a place in the history of the country and a debt of gratitude from its people.
The coins were authorized at the request of the Lafayette Memorial Commission, who sought to raise funds for a Statue of General Lafayette in Paris. The statue would be presented as a gift of the American People for the 1900 International Exposition held in France.
The obverse design of the Lafayette Silver Dollar features profile portraits of General Lafayette and George Washington. Notably, this represented the first time that a President had been depicted on a legal tender U.S. coin. Inscriptions surrounding the portraits read “United States of America” and “Lafayette Dollar”. As another point of interest, this represented the first commemorative silver dollar issued by the U.S.
The reverse design of the coin features Lafayette on horseback, based on an early model of the bronze statue by Paul Wayland Bartlett that would later be built in Paris. Inscriptions along the outer edge read “Erected by the Youth of the United States in Honor of Ge Lafayette” and “Paris 1900”. Charles E. Barber is credit as the designer of the obverse and reverse, although the obverse was said to be inspired by a medal created by Francois Augustin Caunois and the reverse was based on Paul Wayland Barlett’s statue.
A total of 50,000 of the silver dollars were authorized for production and sold by the Memorial Commission for $2 each. Sales of the Lafayette Dollar to the public did not reach the maximum production and accordingly about 14,000 pieces were eventually melted, leaving the surviving distribution at 36,026 pieces. The first coin minted was sent to French President Loubet.
Lafayette Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Charles E. Barber
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 26.73 grams
Diameter: 38.1 mm
Authorization: Public Law No. 55-188
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 50,000
Lafayette Dollar Mintage