Lewis and Clark: A Unique Coin Commemorating an Epic American Journey

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In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on a journey to explore the wild, uncharted West. The U.S. had just completed the Louisiana Purchase, and Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery unit of the U.S. Army to study this vast area, learn how it could be used for the purposes of commerce, and (hopefully) find a water route connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Mississippi River system.

The land the Lewis and Clark Expedition explored was a mystery to Europeans and Americans, marked on the expeditions maps by a large blank space and the word Unknown. While Lewis and Clark didnt find the woolly mammoths Jefferson expected, they traversed the Rocky Mountains, documented 300 species, and made contact with nearly 50 Native American tribes.

This was also the journey in which Sacagawea entered American history and legend. Sacagawea was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who was kidnapped by a group from the Hidatsa tribe when she was 12 years old. At 13, she was sold to a French-Canadian trapper, who lived near where the Corps of Discovery wintered from 1805-1805. Lewis and Clark needed a Shoshone interpreter, and Sacagawea proved invaluable. She is now depicted on the Sacagawea dollar, which has been minted from 2000 to the present.

A Unique Coin Commemorating an Epic American Journey

To commemorate this trailblazing exploration, the Lewis and Clark Exposition Dollar was minted in 1904. The coin was authorized in an appropriations bill signed by President Theodore Roosevelt for the Lewis and Clark Exposition held in Portland, Oregon in 1904. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber designed the coin, which is the only two-headed coin the U.S. has ever struck.

The obverse features a profile portrait of Lewis, with the inscriptions LEWIS-CLARK EXPOSITION PORTLAND ORE. and 1904. The reverse features Clark in profile, with the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DOLLAR inscribed around his portrait. While 25,000 1904-dated coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, 15,003 were later melted, leaving a mintage of only 9,997. Funds from the sales of the coin were used by the Exposition to erect a statue of Sacagawea in a Portland park.

Many Lewis and Clark gold dollars were sold to non-collectors and thus not handled properly, which makes it difficult to find this coin in a high Mint State. Only occasionally does this coin appear in the MS60 to MS63 range, and MS64 and MS65 grades are difficult to find. This MS66 coin with a CAC seal is thus a truly rare specimen.

High Value for Collectors

As quoted in CoinWeek, renowned numismatist Maurice Rosen suggests that collectors acquire “a variety of classic U.S. coins,” including “attractive, CAC approved, PCGS or NGC certified MS-65 or MS-66” one-dollar gold commemoratives. In addition to holding their value, they are actively traded and are thus a liquid investment that collectors should find easy to sell in the future.

This coin would be excellent as a complement to the 2004 Lewis and Clark silver dollar or as an addition to a gold coin commemorative set.