Memorial Day! The “first holiday of summer” as it has become known, is a day of picnics and bar-b-ques, parades and family gatherings, and hopefully, a harbinger of sunny days to come. The tradition of a day of memory reaches back to ancient times, but our own Memorial Day has a history that goes as far back as May 1, 1865, when citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, mostly freed slaves or “freedmen,” dedicated a burial ground for Union POWs that was once a race track – nearly 10,000 people turned out. Other locations in the U.S. claim the “first” Memorial Day service as well, but the Charleston celebration was the first recorded after the Civil War. Memorial Day is a holiday that specifically remembers those who gave their lives for the United States in armed conflicts, unlike Veteran’s Day which celebrates all veterans, living or dead, past, present, and future.
Numismatically speaking, the actual Memorial Day holiday has never been celebrated on a coin, but several modern commemorative coins have been issued that illustrate the Memorial Day theme. For instance, in 1991 the Korean War Memorial dollar was issued, and later in the same year a series of three dual-dated 1991-1995 coins — half dollar, dollar, and half eagle — was released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of World War II. In 1994 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dollar was struck. Another coin that might fit the Memorial Day theme is the 1997 National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial dollar. After that there are many commemorative issues with a military theme, but none that deal directly with the Memorial Day holiday’s intent.
We here at Stack’s Bowers Galleries wish all our friends a very Happy Memorial Day weekend – travel safely, enjoy the sunshine, and may your entire summer be filled with happiness and good fortune!