Mark Twain commemorative coin will help UC Berkeley

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Mark Twain is a gift that keeps on giving to UC Berkeley.

In October, UC Press published the third volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The first volume, which ran to 760 pages, was a runaway bestseller with more than 275, 000 copies in print. It came out in 2010 – 100 years after Twain’s death (The author, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, had ordered it not to be published until 100 years after his death).

Now the U.S. Mint is about to issue a Mark Twain commemorative coin in gold and silver, and a portion of the sales – which could reach $1 million – will go to the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.

The Mint will make as many as 100,000 gold coins and 350,000 silver coins with Twain’s face on the front. Some of the coins show him holding pipe with the smoke forming a silhouette of two of Twain’s best-known characters, Huck Finn and Jim, sitting on a raft. The backs will either feature a steamboat – one of Clemens’ many jobs or other characters from his writings, including the knight and horse from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and the frog from The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.


Although the coins carry a face value of $1 and $5 price tag, they will sell for $44.95 and $45.95 for the first thirty days after they are on sale and will go up by $5 each after that. Included in that price is a Congressionally-mandated $35 surcharge for the gold coin and a $10 surcharge for the silver coin. Since 1982, when the program began, th0se surcharges have raised $506 million for 60 non-profits and programs, according to Mike White, a spokesman for the U.S. Mint.

The Mark Twain coins go on sale on Jan. 14, 2016. Four institutions will split the money generated from the coins.  In addition to the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library, the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn.; Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y.; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Mo., will get an equal share of the funds.

The amount of money raised will depend on the popularity of the commemorative coins.

“If the entire issue is sold, it could be well in excess of $1 million for each of the sites,” Henry Sweets, executive director of the Hannibal museum told the Associated Press.

The silver commemorative coin featuring Mark Twain. Photo: U.S. Mint
The silver commemorative coin featuring Mark Twain. Photo: U.S. Mint

Elaine C. Tennant, the director of the Bancroft Library, said no one at UC Berkeley is counting on that million dollars. That is a best case scenario of all of the coins are sold, she said.


“For that to happen, all the morning stars would have to sing together and align themselves as they don’t very often,” said Tennant.

She thought the Mark Twain Project might use the funds to “secure the future of its staff going forward.” But nothing has been decided since at this point no funds have been generated.

In addition to putting out Twain’s autobiography, the Mark Twain Project, headed by Robert Hirst, intends to “produce a digital critical edition, fully annotated, of everything Mark Twain wrote,” according to its website. It currently has more than 2,400 of Twain’s letters online, as well as a number of photographs and images. The collection at the Bancroft includes more than 500 of Twain’s unpublished manuscripts in various states of completion, 46 notebooks; about 3,000 letters by him; some 17,000 letters to Clemens; and ephemera such as photographs and scrapbooks.

Twain’s papers and writings have been at UC Berkeley since 1949. The Bancroft Library has continued to purchase other Twain materials to build up the archive. While the university supports the Bancroft, the Mark Twain Project also receives funds from private donors.

This article has been updated to clarify how much the coins will sell for.


Related:
A Berkeley celebration of Mark Twain (11.18.10)
Eagerly awaiting the Mark Twain-tell all (08.10.10)
Mark Twain’s true thoughts will soon be revealed (05.24.15)

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