FORT SMITH — The designs of three much anticipated coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service were unveiled in a Wednesday ceremony.
In his remarks to a large crowd, filled with local, state and federal representatives who gathered on the lawn of the Fort Smith National Historic Site, Board Chairman Jim Spears said the gathering was a unique experience.
“You’ll be seeing these designs at the same time as the rest of the world,” he said, noting that a similar ceremony was underway at the Department of Justice in Washington.
The three commemorative coins will help fund the planned national U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith.
Spears spoke of the long history of the program, and thanked those who helped support it, both locally and nationally, including U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark, and John Boozman, R-Ark, former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, along with the museum board and the national leadership council.
In 2012 Congress enacted a law creating a set of three coins to honor the U.S. Marshals Service on its 225th birthday in 2015 with a limit of 100,000 gold $5 coins, 500,000 silver dollar coins and 750,000 copper-nickel clad half-dollar coins, a Museum release states.
According to a news release from the U.S. Mint, the $5 gold coin memorializes fallen U.S. Marshals Service operational personnel. The obverse of the $5 gold coin features a current badge and the words “225 Years Of Sacrifice.” The reverse depicts an eagle with a shield on its chest inscribed with “U.S. Marshal.”
The half-dollar clad coin captures the diverse missions of the agency throughout the nation’s history. The obverse features a present-day female deputy marshal and an old west marshal in the background. The reverse depicts Lady Justice holding scales in one hand and a marshal’s badge in the other. Other elements symbolize marshals’ involvement during the nation’s changing times, including public school integration.
The silver-dollar coin honors the agency’s frontier history. The obverse features a historic badge and deputy marshals on horseback. The reverse features a frontier marshal holding a wanted poster that reads “Wanted in Ft. Smith.”
Seeing the designs first-hand, especially that of the silver-dollar coin, was exciting to those in attendance.
“This is a huge day, and I’m tickled to see our town recognized on one of the coins,” said Claude Legris, a member of the Marshals Museum board and executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. “It’s rare to see a town recognized on a piece of legal tender, so this is very exciting.”
Mike Oglesby, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, said he felt honored by each coin, but also felt a personal connection to the silver-dollar coin.
“These coins honor everyone from 1789 to this date and beyond,” Oglesby said. “There is much history of the Marshals Service here, and many deputies and marshals lost their lives here, more than anywhere else in the U.S. To have the museum here and the coin, it is fitting that they honor us.”
The museum is set to receive up to $5 million from the sales of the commemorative coins, which go on sale in 2015. The funds raised through the surcharges will help construct the museum, which is expected to cost $50 million. The 50,000-square-foot facility will be located along the Arkansas River.
Other organizations authorized to benefit from sales of the collectible coins are the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The coins, about the size of a typical half-dollar, will be available for purchase in a limited quantity in January 2015 at www.usmint.gov. Prices for the coins are undetermined and will be dictated by the commodity market price at that time, museum officials said.
Legris said the coins were a big step in helping to raise money to build the museum and felt encouraged the museum would reach its goal. Museum officials expect to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking on the project in September. The museum is projected to open in 2017.