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Failure to Remember?
February 21, 2012

Did you remember where you were 50 years ago yesterday when astronaut John Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in Friendship 7 to become the first American to orbit the earth?

Five decades is a long time to remember an event, but I happen to be someone who can remember it.


My grade school considered the event so important that we kids were invited to view it on televisions placed in various locations around the school.

The set I watched the blast-off on was in the hallway outside my classroom.

It was the only time while I was in school that an event from the space program caused us to stop what we were doing.

There were many events that characterize the decade of the 1960s, but it seems to me the space program gets short shrift.

Sure, the Apollo 11 moon landing was celebrated on the reverse of first the Eisenhower dollar starting in 1971 and then the Anthony dollar in 1979, but there is nothing else.

I editorialized in the 1980s that the space shuttle should be on a commemorative.

The response from Mint Director Donna Pope was that a space shuttle on a coin would soon look old-fashioned.

Well, yes it will someday. That’s precisely the point. Milestones of history are reminders of what came before us.

The space program is a series of events worthy of commemoration. That we as a nation have done little to mark our progress with silver and gold coins will look to be strange to future generations.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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