George Washington led our nation through some of its most trying times. Born into a prosperous planting family in Virginia in 1732, Washington was named commander of the Virginia militia in 1752 and fought in the French and Indian war.
As the British kept raising taxes on the American colonists, by the late 1760’s, Washington believed it would be best to declare independence from England.
In 1774, he served as delegate to the First Continental Congress. A year later as the American Revolution broke out, he was named commander in chief of the Continental Army.
Washington was known as a man of high integrity and an inspirational leader. While the struggling colonial army had little of the supplies, clothing and food that the British had – they had their leader.
During the difficult winter of 1777-1778, Washington’s motivating leadership at Valley Forge kept the candle of hope lit among his troops. By 1781, the Continental forces captured British troops in the famed Battle of Yorktown, which essentially ended the Revolutionary War.
Washington quickly became a national hero. Many Americans wanted a piece of their hero – and coins, medals and tokens were minted from 1783 through 1795 to honor this man.
Known as Washington Pieces, early Americans collected these tokens, many of which were minted overseas. All of the pieces featured and honored George Washington. Collectors today still covet coins from this category and there are over a dozen different types available.
As America’s first president, Washington provided a guidepost as to what our own experiment in democracy could create and his legacy still guides us today. A compassionate man, he advised: “Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone.”
As a reasonable man, Washington also warned that “We must consult our means rather than our wishes.”
In a particularly prescient quote, Washington foreshadowed the development of the European Union 200 years before it was created: “Someday, following the example of the United States of America, there will be a United States of Europe.”
Washington also provided a warning on the dangers of political parties to future generations:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
While George Washington was a great leader for our nation, in the end he loved working on his farm – Mount Vernon. He grew Mount Vernon from a 2,000 acres farm into an 8,000-acre operation that included five farms. Washington grew many crops, including wheat and corn, he bred mules and maintained fruit orchards and a fishery.
He is known for saying: “I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”
Last but not least, Washington had an opinion on paper money that we use today:
“Paper money has had the effect in your state that it will ever have, to ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraud and injustice.”
Washington pieces include tokens like the 1783 copper GEORGIVS TRIUMPHO. Also dated 1783 (even though they were coined later) are the Small Bust, Draped Bust and ‘UNITY’ Washington tokens which feature a left-facing bust of Washington wearing a military jacket. Extremely popular among collectors are the 1791 Washington copper cents, which carry a ONE CENT denomination. These coins feature a bust of Washington also dressed in a military jacket.
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