World War I Coins



WWI began



The United States officially entered the war on the Allies side



World War I ended on November 11



The United States Mint announced a competition for the design of WWI commemorative coins



The US Mint will announce the winners of the competition this year

The War to End All Wars (at least the first one)


The U.S. in World War I

Although World War I began on July 28, 1914, the U.S. didn’t enter the conflict until 1917 after a German submarine had sunk the Lusitania that killed 128 Americans. After trying to peace for the U.S., President Woodrow Wilson finally called on the citizens to win this war and “eliminate militarism from the globe.” The draft commenced and by mid-1918, 10,000 soldiers were being sent to France daily; the United States was actively involved for only seven and a half months. Finally, the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.


A Coin to Commemorate the End of the War

In 2016, the United States Mint announced a competition to design a silver dollar to commemorate America’s involvement in WWI. While we wait for the 2017 announcement of the winner, there’s a lot to learn about the process. First, the coin commemorates over four million Americans who served during the war. The competition is divided into two parts, with Phase One having been completed and 20 artists selected for Phase Two. The deadline for Phase Two submissions was August 2016, and the winner will be announced in January 2017.


Finalists Phase One & Phase Two

An artist entering the competition was required to submit a portfolio that was evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Demonstration of ability to convey complex concepts with symbolism
  • Masterful application of ingenuity in interpreting the subject matter and conveying its theme
  • Demonstration that the artist is adaptable to different subject matters and themes
  • Demonstration of ability to render figures, portraits, animals or landscapes with the use of perspective and scale*

Each of the 20 finalists will be paid $1,000 for their design and accompanying plaster mold.

  • Artists invited to participate in Phase Two must submit a two-dimensional digital design for both the obverse and reverse of the coin as well as a three-dimensional plaster model of both the obverse and reverse design.
  • The designs must be emblematic of America’s involvement in World War I.
  • The obverse design must contain the inscriptions “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “2018.”
  • The reverse design must contain the inscriptions “United States of America,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and “One Dollar” or “$1.”**


Commemorative Coins Over the Years

Commemorative coins are typically minted to celebrate a particular event or person. There are three types: coins issued and expected to be used in regular circulation, coins issued for general circulation, but for a limited period of time (e.g., U.S. 50 State Quarters), and coins that are intended to be used as souvenirs, but can be considered legal tender.

One of the earliest commemorative coins issued was from 161-169 to celebrate the reign of Roman emperor Lucius Versus in his victory over Vologases IV of Parthia.

The most expensive U.S. commemorative coin is thought to be the 1915-S Pan Pacific $50 coin (both round and octagonal), valued between $150,000 and $250,000 in mint condition. The reasons for the high value of this coin (celebrating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco) include there being only a few hundred of each shape distributed, and the fact that it was the only octagonal coin ever minted.


So You Want to Make a Coin?

Will Kalif, founder and owner of StormTheCastle (a hobby site) provides written and video instructions on how to cast a metal coin.


Did You Know?

  • The law calls for the winning artist to design both the front and the back of the coin.
  • There is no cost to taxpayers for the coin program or the design competition.
  • While the coin will be legal tender, it will not be minted for general circulation; the fewer coins minted, the higher the value.
  • There is a U.S. Mint site at West Point that still acts as a gold bullion depository; security is high, and its address is not listed in the National Park Service listings.


* Find out all about the competition.

** Find complete list of guidelines.



Read H.R. 2366, the law enacted to design the WWI Commemorative Coin

Learn the history of the U.S. Mint facilities and how to arrange a tour

Learn about commemorative coin collecting

Have a centennial suggestion? Let us know!

Contact Us