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The First Salute

Pamela Grimes

Posted on July 08 2020

The Silver Dollar First Salute is a revered military tradition dating back to the 19th century. It marks the transition from officer trainee to leader of soldiers and results in a cadet becoming a commissioned officer. The new officer chooses an enlisted service member that has had the greatest impact on them to give them their “First Salute.” As tradition goes, in return the newly commissioned officer gives a Silver Dollar as a token of gratitude.

The Silver Dollar given during this special moment can vary depending on your budget, branch of service and family tradition. 


1) Silver American Eagle

The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States and can be purchased through the U.S. Mint. You could opt for the current year or even browse E-bay listings to find an American Silver Eagle in the cadet’s birth year.  The obverse features Walking Liberty as she strides toward the setting sun, one hand outstretched as she walks toward an ever-brighter future. In her left hand she holds oak branches denoting Americas civic successes, while the American flag is draped over her shoulders.

The reverse of all American Silver Eagles features the heraldic eagle of the United States. First designed and used on American coinage in 1794, this image is a refined 20th century design by former US Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti. Thirteen stars above its head honor the original colonies, while the olive branch of peace and arrows of war are clutched in its talons.

It was first released by the United States Mint on November 24, 1986. It is struck only in the one-troy ounce size, which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is guaranteed to contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver.

2) Eisenhower Dollar

The Eisenhower Dollar makes another good option as Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Five Star Army General and the 34th President of the United States. These coins were minted from 1971 to 1978 and were the last circulating large-size dollar coin in the United States. The obverse of the coin features Dwight D. Eisenhower and the reverse is based on the Apollo 11 mission insignia which marked man’s first steps on the moon. The Chief Engraver for the United States Mint Frank Gasparro designed both the obverse and the reverse of the coin. To prepare the design, Gasparro studied 30 pictures of the former President as well as a drawing he had made in 1945 after catching a glimpse of Eisenhower at a parade.

The only drawback of the Eisenhower Dollar is that they were minted using a copper-nickel clad. However, if you can find a proof coin from a collector or a dealer, these were made of 40% silver.


3) Morgan Dollar

The Morgan Dollar is one of the most collectible Silver Dollars and was minted from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921. It was named after its designer, United States Mint Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan. The obverse depicts a profile portrait representing Liberty, while the reverse depicts an eagle with wings outstretched. A quick search on Ebay or Etsy, you can find one in good condition in a year that is important to your family such as the birth year of a great-grandfather.


4) Peace Dollar

Because this coin was emblematic of peace following World War I, collectors view the Peace Dollar as a true piece of American history and it makes a wonderful Silver Dollar for the “First Salute.” The design of the Peace Dollar is the work of Anthony de Francisci and was the result of a competition to design a coin that was symbolic of peace after the First World War. The obverse depicts the head and neck of the Goddess Liberty. She is in the profile position with flowing hair and a radiant crown on her head. In addition to the profile of the Goddess Liberty, the coin’s obverse also features the phrase “In God We Trust” and says “LIBERTY” across the top edge.


5) Commemorative Silver Dollar

Commemorative coins, such as the Marine Corps Silver Dollar, also work well for the First Salute. In 2005 the U.S. Mint issued the Marine Corps Silver Dollar to honor the 230th Anniversary of the Marine Corps. With a combined mintage of a mere 600,000 pieces it sold out in a matter of days. This coin features the seal of the Marine Corps with the inscription Semper Fidelis on one side and the historic raising of the flag by the United States Marines on Iwo Jima in 1945, on the other. The Marine Corp Silver dollar is struck out of .900 fine silver with a net weight of 26.73 grams. Other wonderful commemorative coins include the 1994 Women in Service Silver Dollar, the 2002 West Point Silver Dollar and the 2011 Army Silver Dollar.


First Salute DIY Frame Kit

The CoinArt Company offers a kit which allows you to insert your own keepsake Silver Dollar to capture the emotion and pride of this special moment (shown above left). We can also incorporate your Silver Dollar into a custom print with special meaning to your family. With the framed print (shown above right), our design featured a quote along with a Korean War photograph to honor a family member who died while defending our freedom.

We hope the kit honors your special moment. We would also like to thank all military members for your service and sacrifice. For more information or if you have questions about our frame kit, please email us at You can purchase the kit from our own website or from our Etsy shop.

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