The U.S. Mint begins selling Star-Spangled Banner commemorative coins on Monday

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Mint will honor one of America's most famous historical moments on Monday with the release of the 2012 Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coins.

That moment -- the writing of the National Anthem in 1812.

On September 7, 1814, in an attempt to secure the release of his friend Dr. William Beanes, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet moored in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.

Key was successful in securing the release of Beanes, but both were held by British forces aboard a ship during a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry near Baltimore. On the morning of September 14, Key looked across the water at the fort to see a 42-foot by 30-foot American flag still flying despite the shelling.

Key was so moved by the sight of the flag flying over the fort he wrote a verse he named "The Defence of Fort McHenry" asking it to be sung to the British melody "To Anacreon in Heaven." Within a month, those words had been published in papers along America's east coast.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the song, which had since been renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner." to be played at military ceremonies. Fifteen years later on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a Congressional resolution officially designating the song as the U.S. National Anthem.

President Barack Obama signed the Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Act into law on August 16, 2010. It ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 100,000 gold $5 coins and 500,000 silver $1 coins in commemoration of the bicentennial of the writing of the National Anthem.

The coins will go on sale at a special launch event at Fort McHenry on Monday. Members of Congress, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and officials from the U.S. Mint and the National Park Service will attend the ceremonies.

The commemorative coins will also go on sale on the U.S. Mint website beginning at noon.

The front of the gold $5 coin features a naval battle scene from the War of 1812 with an American sailing ship in the foreground and a damaged British ship in the background. The back design depicts the first five words of the Star-Spangled Banner, O say can you see, in Francis Scott Key's handwriting against a fifteen starred-and-striped flag.

The heads side of the $1 silver coin shows Lady Liberty waving the 15-star, 15-strop Star-Spangled Banner flag with Fort McHenry in the background. The tails side depicts a modern American flag waiving.

Both coins have the inscriptions of Liberty, In God We Trust, E Pluribus Unum and United States of America either on their front or back.

Prices begin at $44.95 for the silver $1 coin and $519.30 for the $5 gold coin. The price of the gold coins will fluctuate each week depending on the price of gold.

Surcharges from the sales of the coins will be paid to the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. The money will support the Commission's bicentennial activities, educational programs and the continued preservation of historical sites in Maryland related to the War of 1812.

Online: www.usmint.gov

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