Weight: 12.5 grams
Mints: San Francisco (No Mint Mark)
Designer: Laura Gardin Fraser / Sidney Bell
Fort Vancouver began as a small village in the Oregon Territory and grew into one of the most important forts in the region. Dr. John McLouglin, the founder of Fort Vancouver, effectively ruled over the entire territory, encouraging settlements and promoting agriculture and industry in the area. He also kept the peace between the new settlers and the native people. As these developments were occurring in the Oregon Territory, the UK and US were debating over the ownership of the area. In the end, the land was given to the United States and became much of what is now Oregon and Washington. Fort Vancouver is now the city of Vancouver, Washington. Because this settlement was so important to the history of the region, it was decided that a commemorative coin would be made to celebrate the centennial of its founding.
Sidney Bell was the first artist chosen to design the coin. Although his designs were approved by the Centennial Commission, they were rejected by the Commission of Fine Arts. Laura Gardin Fraser was hired as the replacement. She revised and finalized Bell’s designs. The obverse of the coin shows the bust of Dr. John McLoughlin, inspired by a sketch by John T. Urquhart. He is flanked by the centennial dates. The reverse shows a typical frontiersman standing in front of Mt. Hood. The mintmark is noticeably missing, although the reason why is not known.
The original act called for up to 300,000 pieces, but only 50,000 coins were minted, along with 28 set aside for assay. The coins were sold at the Exposition celebrating the centennial and priced at $1 apiece. Sales were very slow and fewer than 15,000 coins were sold, but this can likely be attributed to the local nature of the celebration. Most of the coins that remain were mishandled and are in low grades. Very few still exist in mint state. A few matte proofs are reported to exist as well. Some coins were given matte surfaces by individuals long after minting, so authentication is recommended for any matte coins.
The authorizing act specified not over 300,000 pieces. The Centennial Corporation began selling the coins at $1 apiece through August and September; their Exposition opened August 17 and lasted one week. Several hundred numismatic value; many others were mishandled, kept as pocket pieces, or spent. Considering the remoteness and exclusively local nature of the celebration, it is surprising that as many as fourteen thousand coins were sold. Survivors are extremely difficult to locate in choice mint state; one of us (A.S.) estimates that fewer than 300 survive, the remaining thousands being barely mint state or sliders or worse, many poorly cleaned.