D. Ray Smith
On each of Oak Ridge’s 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries, coins were produced. The 25 is the most readily available and can sometimes be found on eBay. The 50th is harder to find. And, I believe the 75th was not as widely distributed as the others.
A few weeks ago, Mike Stallo told us the story of Nat Johnson, a local graphic designer, in a “Historically Speaking” column. Nat designed the Oak Ridge 25th Anniversary Coin.
In an article published in The Oak Ridger on Monday, April 17, 1967, we find the following: “Nat Johnson, an artist for the Atomic Energy Commission, designed the piece. The obverse of the coin shows a figure representing Hermes or Mercury, the legendary messenger of Zeus. Johnson omitted the winged feet and head as they are not always present in Hermes designs and would detract from the atomic energy symbol.
“The scene depicted on the coin shows the sky above the three hills of Oak Ridge (I can’t imagine why ‘three hills’ was used! I would have said ‘the sky above the Cumberland Mountains’) The messenger has just emerged from the huge government facilities with the newly born energy source – atomic energy – and stopped in flight for (a) second before beginning its mission to share this great achievement with the world.
“The opposite side of the coin shows the now familiar Oak Ridge 25th anniversary symbol. This symbol is used to highlight all events of Oak Ridge 25.” This concludes the description of the part.
The article went on to say, “Silver Anniversary Coins will ship from the Franklin Mint in Philadelphia on April 21 and will be available at Oak Ridge ’25 Committee Headquarters for one dollar.” I just checked eBay and found one for $20.
The 50th anniversary piece seems harder to find to me. I also don’t have a good description of the design. Anyone who can help with this would be welcome. The front has a large “OR” with what looks to me like a dove flying the “R” and an atomic symbol. Also, the words Oak Ridge at the top with 50th Anniversary at the bottom. The dates 1942 and 1992 are in the middle of each side of the “OR”.
What is most amazing with the piece I have is the back. It has “Tennessee 2000”, the three stars on the state flag, “The Volunteer State”, a copyright symbol with “TRW 1999”, and “1oz .999 Fine Silver”. Not at all sure what all of this means… any idea? Any input would be appreciated. Email me at [email protected]
The Oak Ridge 75th Anniversary coin is also a bit unusual in that there are at least two designs. One has a huge “75” on the front with the atomic symbol and the years 1942 – 2017 with “Oak Ridge, Tennessee” at the top and “75th Anniversary” at the bottom. The back is white with a large “A” with “Manhattan Project” at the top, “Bomb” at the bottom of the “A”, and the Corps of Engineers castle at the bottom.
The other 75th anniversary Oak Ridge coin bears the official city seal on the front with “City of Oak Ridge” at the top and “1942 – 2017” at the bottom. On the reverse is the large “A” with “Manhattan Project” (twice) at the top and “Bomb” below the “A”, the Corps of Engineers castle below with “75th Anniversary” at the bottom.
I also collected the “Big Ed’s Pizza” coin and the “Atomic Bomb Ends World War II with Japan” coin, as well as many others. I started collecting “challenge coins” when I was given one at the end of the tours I offered at Y-12 while I was a historian there. Often the head of the military band or the Department of Energy would shake my hand at the end of the tour and, with that handshake, place a challenge coin in my palm. This is the traditional way to present them.
I was also sure to get a piece of each of the Y-12 pieces produced at events such as the grand opening of the High Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. I hope to have one when the uranium processing facility is complete.
Many of you may also be collectors of these types of coins. And some of you might know more about Oak Ridge Anniversary Coins. Please share with me if you do. [email protected]
I would like to write a follow up to this “Historically speaking” column where more details about the 50th and both versions of the 75th coins are included.