By John Dale Beety
While all current U.S. coins bear the national motto “In God We Trust,” a few designs from the 20th century do more than simply name God. They cite a specific Bible verse.
It isn’t obvious unless you know where to look and on which coins, but three of them reference Leviticus 25:10. The King James Version reads:
“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”
The key part is “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It’s inscribed on the Liberty Bell.
Three U.S. coin designs depict the Liberty Bell. The Bible citation is close to the bell’s famous crack, which is why it appears on each of the three.
First is a commemorative half dollar struck in 1926 to celebrate America’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary). On the reverse is the Liberty Bell, and while it’s hard to spot with the unaided eye, get some magnification going and the citation appears in Roman numerals as LEV. XXV:X.
In 1948, the regular half dollar design switched to Benjamin Franklin on one side and the Liberty Bell on the other. While the many millions of Franklin half dollars made from 1948 to 1963 usually are too poorly struck to make out the inscription, sometimes it is visible on specially created proof coins.
Most recent is the Eisenhower dollar design struck in 1975 and 1976 to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial. The bigger dollar coin makes the Liberty Bell’s inscriptions easier to see, though not by much because the Bell has to share space with the Moon.
The verse isn’t the focal point of any of these designs. The artists simply reproduced the most famous view of the Liberty Bell in all its details, Bible citation included.
Even so, how Leviticus was quoted on several U.S. coins is one of the more interesting stops on the long, strange journey of American money.
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