Celebrity Eagle Challenger Earns Historic Place on New Legal Tender U. S. Half Dollar Commemorative Coin.
PROCEEDS BENEFIT FUTURE BALD EAGLE CARE & PRESERVATION EFFORTS.
Eagle images and emblems have graced United States money since the founding of our nation. However, Challenger, an internationally known Bald Eagle ambassador with nearly two decades of educational public service, has become the first bird or animal in American history to have both its personal likeness and name featured on a legal tender coin.
It’s a special honor and distinction that many other iconic animals – such as Lassie, Secretariat, Flipper, Gentle Ben, Rin Tin Tin, Ling Ling or Shamu – have not had, according to the not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation, caretaker of the trained 19-year-old free-flying eagle and headquartered at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
This rare first in U.S. coinage history gives both serious and novice numismatic enthusiasts a worthy and compelling reason to purchase one of the 750,000 limited edition Challenger coins before they sell out, according to the conservation group.
“This beautiful collectable coin makes a wonderful and lasting gift for our children and grandchildren,” AEF President Al Cecere said. “And a portion of the sales price from each coin will help protect the Bald Eagle, a precious national treasure, for generations to come.”
The recently minted Challenger eagle commemorative coin went on sale on January 15th and will only be available for purchase from the United States Mint (www.usmint.gov ) until December 12, 2008 or until it sells out, whichever comes first.
The reverse (back) side of the coin features Challenger’s portrait and name, while the obverse (front) side has the image of two downy sibling eaglets snuggled against an unhatched egg.
This attractive half-dollar clad metal coin can be purchased for $10.95 (proof) and $8.95 (uncirculated), with $3 from each unit sold benefiting a special American Eagle Fund. The coin is also available in a Young Collectors Set educational package offered at $14.95 (uncirculated) until June 2008. Each coin comes with a limited-edition certificate.
In addition, the U.S. Mint recently offered a three-coin “proof” set that includes the Challenger eagle coin along with two other companion commemorative eagle coins – a $5 Gold coin and a Silver Dollar. That set has already sold out at the U.S. Mint due to favorable response from collectors (25,000 sets, one per household), and is now only available on the secondary market.
Sales have been good for all three coins, but both “proof” and “uncirculated” versions of all three coins can still be purchased individually from the Mint. The coins feature natural and symbolic Bald Eagle images and emblems.
The reverse side of the Silver Dollar bears the original United States “Great Seal” of 1782 designed by Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson (used for about 60 years), which has never before appeared on a legal tender U.S. coin. The reverse side of the $5 Gold piece bears the present day Great Seal – the first time that it has ever been used on a legal tender U.S. gold coin. It’s also the first time that the current Great Seal has been used as a central stand-alone design on any U.S. coin (the Kennedy Half-Dollar includes the “Presidential Seal”). More than half of these special gold and silver eagle coins have already been sold.
“We estimate that over $6 million has already been raised from these commemoratives to aid the future care of Bald Eagles,” Cecere said. “But our goal is to generate $10 million for these great birds with a complete sellout of the coins. Only six months into this year-long program, we’re already over half way there.”
Since the early 1990s, the renowned Bald Eagle Challenger has achieved widespread fame for his patriotic and inspirational educational flight demonstrations at national sporting events and ceremonies usually during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The non-releasable bird was blown from a wild nest at five weeks of age, hand-raised by humans, and could not survive in the wild on his own.
Physically perfect, but highly human socialized, Challenger became the first of his species to perform educational flights at high-profile public events and places such as the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Pentagon, World Series, Pro-Bowl All-Star Game, Para-Olympic Games, Men’s Final Four, Fiesta Bowl and BSC National Championship.
At the invitation of the U.S. Department of Interior, Challenger participated in the official Bald Eagle “delisting” ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 2007.
The new commemorative coins celebrate the recovery of the Bald Eagle to America’s lands, waterways and skies, as well as the 35th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The coins were created by the United States Mint after passage of the American Bald Eagle Recovery & National Emblem Commemorative Coin Act, which was unanimously approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2004.
“We hope that interest in our cause from civic organizations, companies and individual Americans will continue to gain momentum until every coin is sold,” notes Cecere. These precious metal commemoratives can only increase in value, but will no longer be offered by the U.S. Mint after December 12, 2008.”