By Jeremy Howell
In 2010 the U. S. Mint was given an executive order to create a commemorative coin to honor the 200th anniversary of the writing of the poem that became the "Star-Spangled Banner." The fruition of this project came last month when the Mint unveiled its 2012 Star-Spangled Banner coin set that includes a facsimile of one of Francis Scott Key's drafts of his legendary poem.
A thirty-five-year old Key wrote the future anthem in 1814 following his legendary observation of the Battle of Baltimore. Originally calling his four-stanza poem Defence of Fort McHenry, the work was renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Carr Music Store of Baltimore, Maryland, when it was published as lyrics to the John Stafford Smith composition, "The Anacreontic Song."
Over the remaining portion of the 19th century, the ballad grew in popularity--especially during the Civil War years when the song became synonymous with the Union. President Herbert Hoover officially declared "The Star-Spangled banner" to be the national anthem of the United States in 1931.
Housed at the Library of Congress, the draft used for the commemorative coin set is one of the earliest of four versions produced by Key between the years of 1840-1842. The only earlier draft is Key's original 1814 manuscript, which is in possession of the Maryland Historical Society. The Mint outsourced the reproduction work to a vendor in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where a limited issue of 50,000 was printed. Although the sets have only been available since last month they are already being well received.
The Star-Spangled Banner 2012 bicentennial set is not the first U. S. Mint commemorative to feature a reproduction of a historical document. In recent years, the Mint has begun to feature all sorts of reproduced books and documents for its sets. In 2006 the Mint recreated Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac for a silver dollar set, and in 2009, the Gettysburg address was reproduced for a Mint set. As these limited reproductions become included in mint sets more frequently, it seems that in the future what the mint produces will not only be found in coin collections but in manuscript and book collections as well.