Like private mints, the US Mint produces medals, some of which contain silver. The first silver commemorative medal series created and distributed by the US Mint recognized the centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge in 2003.
The series produced both silver and bronze medals. For the silver medals, the obverse was the same with a full length view of President Theodore Roosevelt. The reverse images included one of four: an eagle, an elk, a salmon or two canvasback ducks.
In March 2003, the Director of the Mint announced the designs for the National Wildlife Refuge medals at a gathering in Sebastian, Florida. The four designs represented species that, at the time, were protected by the National Wildlife Refuge program.
Later in June, the Mint alerted customers that the medals were available for subscription service, and they would be available for direct sales in July. They noted the limits would be 35,000 for the eagle and 25,000 each for the other three silver medals.
In July, the Mint’s message let people know the medal series was available with the first in the series being the bald eagle design. The remaining three medals would be available on a schedule of roughly every three-four weeks.
Though the silver medals’ mintages were limited, the bronze medal was not. The bronze sold for $4.50 each and the silver medals for $29.50 each.
From the US Mint’s 2003 Annual Report:
2003 National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Medal Series:
This series offers both silver and bronze medals honoring President Theodore Roosevelt, founder of the National Wildlife Refuge System. A portion of the proceeds from sales of these medals will benefit the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Medals, which are the Mint’s first products to bear laser frosting, were released through the Mint’s subscription program in June 2003. This is the first silver commemorative medal series ever offered by the Mint.
Also in the 2003 Annual Report, they included, “This fiscal year, the United States Mint also introduced the National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Medal Series, which sold out in record-setting time.”
Without further delay, let’s look at one of the four silver National Wildlife Refuge Centennial Medals.
The velvet covered clam shell holder slides out of a dark blue outer sleeve:
Inside the clam shell, a velvet covered card with a molded circle securely holds the medal and its plastic case. In addition, the clam shell included the folded Certificate of Authenticity.
Partially unfolded, the insert provides a description of the medal series:
Unfolded, the Certificate of Authenticity shows the message from the Mint Director and the characteristics of the silver medal:
The medal is the same size, weight and metal content as that of 90% silver dollars. Thus, the metal contains 0.77344 troy ounce of silver.
Though the nature design is generally up in the clam shell to show the version of the medal, the obverse is the full length portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt:
This particular medal’s reverse shows the two canvasback ducks in flight over the wetlands:
As an example of the US Mint’s first laser frosting, the designs form a beautiful contrast to their mirror-like proof background.
With the increasing rate of silver (yes, it’s on the increase this afternoon), this medal’s silver content is worth more than the initial $29.50 price.