Thursday, May 3, 2012

The U.S. Mint's Communist Dime

Communists infiltrate U.S. Mint!

Sounds pretty ridiculous right?

But that's exactly what much of the country thought when the U.S. Mint first introduced the Roosevelt dime in 1946.

Although the coin clearly honored President Roosevelt, they also felt that it secretly paid tribute to communist leader Joseph Stalin.

The End of an Era

Roosevelt had just begun serving his 4th term as President when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. He had served as President through most of the Great Depression and World War II. Younger Americans had known no other President.

So it was no surprise when the decision was made to honor President Roosevelt on a coin. The fact that the dime was chosen was also no surprise as Roosevelt had been a victim of polio and was a founder of the charity March of Dimes.

So what made the public think that a coin honoring President Roosevelt was really a secret tribute to communist leader Joseph Stalin?

The March of Communism

During the war Roosevelt, along with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, met with Joseph Stalin at a conference in Yalta. The purpose of the conference was to come to some agreement on the reestablishment of the war torn countries of Poland and Germany. But just a few weeks before his death, Roosevelt sent Stalin a tersely worded message accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments.

Anti-communism was already strong in this country, but Stalin's treacherous actions only caused it to grow stronger. Many Americans, including the powerful elite, didn't trust communists and felt that communists were infiltrating every aspect of American society, including government.

The New Joseph Stalin Dime

Released on what would have been Roosevelt's 64th birthday, people quickly noticed a set of initials on the obverse of the new coin just below Roosevelt's portrait. The initials were "JS."

A rumor quickly spread that the initials stood for Joseph Stalin and that our government had been infiltrated by communists. The U.S. Mint took this rumor seriously enough that it had to respond that the initials were in fact those of the coin's designer John Sinnock, and not those of communist dictator Joseph Stalin.

Communism Spreads to the Half Dollar

Although newspapers widely reported the true story, the rumor did not die immediately as the release of the Benjamin Franklin half dollar in 1948 gave the rumor new life. Also designed by John Sinnock, it too bore his intials "JS" at the bottom of the portrait on the obverse of the coin.

It wouldn't surprised me a bit if there were still a few conspiracy theorists out there today that believe the "JS" stands for Joseph Stalin.