United States Coinage for the Philippine Islands: The 1936 Murphy-Quezon Peso



Today's Journal entry is the twentieth installment in my weekly series on the United States coinage for the Philippine Islands. The nineteenth of the twenty slots that compose a NGC USA-Philippines Type Set is the 1936 Murphy-Quezon Peso.

When the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Philippines became a United States possession. Unlike other colonial powers the U.S. always had intentions of giving the Philippine Islands full independence once the inhabitants were given educational opportunities and the basis for good government was established.

By 1935 "Nation Building" had progressed to the point where the Philippines were ready to make the important transition from a U.S. Territory to a self-governing Commonwealth. A Constitution for the Philippines was approved, and on November 15, 1935, the Philippines were granted Commonwealth status, with a promise of full independence by 1946.

To commemorate this important event a three coin commemorative set was struck by the Manila mint in 1936. The set consisted of a Fifty Centavos, and two One Peso Coins. Both of the commemorative Pesos were struck in .800 fineness silver and have an ASW (Actual Silver Weight) of .5144 oz. The diameter (35mm) and weight (20.00 grams) of the 1936 Commemorative Pesos is the same as the regular issue 1907 - 1912 Peso.

The 1936 commemorative coins were designed by Ambrosio Morales, a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. Ten thousand three coin sets were produced. The three coin set had a face value of 2.5 Pesos, equal to $1.25 in U.S. Dollars, and sold for $3.13. Adjusted for inflation that price would be $51.19 in 2013 dollars (a bargain compared to the current issue prices of silver commemoratives).

The obverse design of the Murphy-Quezon Peso features jugate, left facing, busts of Governor-General Frank Murphy, (the last U.S. Governor-General of the Philippines and first U.S. High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of the Philippines) and Philippine President Manual L. Quezon (the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines). To the right of the busts is the inscription "November 15, 1935" the date that the Commonwealth was established. Periphery inscriptions are "Commonwealth of the Philippines" (above) and "One Peso" (below).

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 "M" Mint Mark appears to the left of the date. This Commonwealth Reverse was used on all USA-Philippines 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. A castle surmounted by a crown is in the upper portion of the oval. The mythical creature in the lower part of the oval is a half lion and half dolphin holding a sword with guard and hilt. The lettering on the Scroll beneath the shield reads "Commonwealth of the Philippines".

Despite the popularity of U.S. commemorative coins at the time the 1936 Commonwealth commemoratives sold poorly and many were on hand in the vaults of the Philippine treasury at the outbreak of World War ll.

When Japan invaded the Philippines, in December 1941, it soon became apparent that the outnumbered USAFFE (United States Army Forces Far East) could not adequately defend the capital. Manila was declared an open city to spare it from destruction by the Japanese and USAFFE forces withdrew to defensive positions on the Bataan peninsula and the island fortresses in Manila Bay.

In order to prevent the gold and silver reserves of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from being captured by the Japanese, government officials hastily crated the gold and silver in the Philippine Treasury and moved it to the relative safety of the island fortress of Corregidor.

During the winter and early spring of 1942 U.S. submarines, outward bound on war patrols from their base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, ran the Japanese naval blockade to bring in much needed ammunition and supplies for the American and Philippine defenders. Slipping into Corregidor under cover of darkness the submarines would unload their precious supplies and fill their ballast tanks and storage spaces with the gold and silver reserves of the "Commonwealth of the Philippines". After completing their war patrols the subs would offload the gold and silver rescued from the Philippines at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor the gold and silver was transferred to surface ships who transported it to the U.S. mainland where it was kept in safe keeping, at the San Francisco Mint, until the end of the war.

When it became apparent that Corregidor was about to fall the remaining silver coins, including many of the ill fated 1936 commemoratives, were crated and thrown into the sea near Corregidor to avoid their seizure by the Japanese.

Since the war many of these coins have been salvaged however these sea salvaged coins are typically heavily corroded from their long immersion in salt water. Despite their historical significance seas salvaged 1936 commemoratives are worth far less than mint state examples. Sea Salvaged Murphy-Quezon Pesos have an Allen catalog price of $40.00 - $65.00.

Die Varieties: There are no known die varieties of this coin.

Strike Issues: The 1936 Murphy-Quezon Peso has a number of strike issues. Die clashes are common and the reverse is not as well struck as the other 1936 commemoratives. This is most evident in the lack of detail on the half lion/half dolphin holding a sword in the center of the commonwealth seal. Another commonly seen defect is bubbles in the area of the periphery inscriptions. The bubbles were most likely caused by foreign substances, such as gas oxides or dirt, which became trapped in the planchet during the production process.

GEM quality Murphy-Quezon Pesos are scarce and very much in demand. The Allen catalog lists a price of $475.00 in MS65 and fully brilliant specimens often sell for considerably more. Mint state 64 is the most commonly seen certified grade.

The attached picture shows my 1936-M Murphy-Quezon Peso, NGC MS65. The Murphy-Quezon Peso had a mintage of 10,000. The combined NGC/PCGS population in MS65 is 90/37.

At the lower left (below the picture of the obverse) is an enlargement of a portion of the obverse periphery lettering. Note the bubbles around the top of the letter T. The bubbles were most likely caused by foreign substances, such as gas oxides or dirt, which became trapped in the planchet during the production process. At the lower right (below the picture of the reverse) are comparative pictures of the center of the Commonwealth seal in Murphy-Quezon and Roosevelt-Quezon Pesos. Note the lack of detail in the half lion/half dolphin on the Murphy-Quezon Peso versus the boldly struck details in the Roosevelt-Quezon Peso.

To see my USA-Philippines 1936 Commemorative Issues Registr


To see old comments for this Journal entry, click here. New comments can be added below.



Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now