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USA/Philippine Commonwealth Era (1936 - 1945) Reverse Designs



Design elements of the Commonwealth Reverse are steeped in the History of the Philippines.

I thought that I would take this opportunity to update the information in my previous Journal entry (Crossovers - Part 2) with some interesting information on the history behind the design elements of the common reverse used on USA/Philippine Commonwealth era coins. Here is a picture of the reverse of the 1936 M Roosevelt Quezon Peso depicted in my earlier Journal entry and a link to the coin in my Registry Set.


This beautiful well-struck MS66 Gem is really an excellent choice to illustrate the design features of the Commonwealth era reverse. In contrast to the generally well-struck 1936 Commoratives the reverse of 1937 through 1945 Commonwealth era business strikes are typically weakly struck, particularly on the central devise and the lettering on the scroll.

From 1903 through 1936 the common reverse on all USA/Philippine coins was a design by Melicio Figueroa which depicted an eagle with spread wings perched atop an American Shield. United States of America was placed above, and the date was centered at the bottom. USA/Philippine coins from this time period are generally referred to as having the Territorial Reverse.

In 1935 a Constitution for the Philippines was approved, and on November 15, 1935, the Philippines were granted Commonwealth status. In 1936 the Manila Mint produced a set of three coins to commemorate the founding of The Commomwealth of the Philippines. The set consisted of two Peso and one Fifty Centavo coin. The obverse of one of the Pesos featured the portraits of the first President of the Philippines, Manual L. Quezon, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The obverse of the other commemorative Peso and the commemorative Fifty Centavos featured portraits of President Quezon and Frank Murphy, the last U.S. Governor General of the Philippines. The common reverse for the 1936 commemoratives depicts the seal of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with United States of America placed above and the date centered below. The Mint Mark appears to the left of the date. This Commonwealth Reverse was used on all USA/Philippine business strikes from 1937 through 1945.

Design elements of the Commonwealth Reverse incorporate the rich history of the Philippines. The eagle perched atop the shield, of course, represents the United States. The shield used was an adaptation of a design used for the official seal of The Government of the Philippine Islands which appeared on Philippine paper money starting in 1905 (Allen 2008). The three stars at the top of the shield represent the three main geographical regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, and the Visayas. The oval in the center of the shield depicts a modification of the Coat of Arms of the City of Manila which dates to 1596.

The following quote is taken from The Copper Coinage of the Philippines by Dr. Gilbert S. Perez which was published in the Coin Collectors Journal, Sept-October 1946 and reprinted in Philippine Numismatic Monographs Number 19 in 1975:

On the 20th of March, 1596 King Philip the II bestowed upon the ensigne y siempre leal City of Manila a Coat of Arms such as is possessed by other cities of the Indies. It shall consist of a shield which shall have in its upper part a golden castle on a red field closed by blue doors and windows and which shall be surmounted by a crown and on the lower half on a blue field, a half lion and half dolphin of silver armed and langued gules (red nails and tongue). The said lion shall hold in his paws a sword with guards and hilt. (Royal Edict of March 20, 1596)

If you look at the attached picture, you can clearly see the castle surmounted by a crown and the half lion-half dolphin holding a sword with guards and hilt in his paws.

The lettering on the Scroll beneath the shield reads Commonwealth of the Philippines.


United States Territorial Coinage For The Philippine Islands by Neil Shafer (Whitman Publishing Company, 1961)

The Copper Coinage of The Philippines by Dr. Gilbert S. Perez in Philippine Numismatic Monographs Number 19 (Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, 1975)

U.S/Philippine Coins 6th Edition 20008-2009 by Lyman L. Allen (Published by Lyman Allen Rare Coins, 2008)




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