1900 Lafayette Silver Dollar. MS-67 (PCGS). CAC. Iridescent reddish-rose is seen obverse periphery, while the center offers warmer olive-gray and silvery near brilliance. The reverse exhibits antique silver and olive-gray central toning with more subtle reddish-rose at the border. Both sides are fully frosted in finish and exceptionally nice for a survivor of this conditionally challenging type.For the modern numismatist, commemorative silver dollars have been a normal part of the collecting landscape for many decades. However, at the very beginning of the Mints commemorative coin program in the 1890s, the denomination of choice was the half dollar and would remain so until the 1980s. In 1899 the Lafayette Memorial Commission sought to use a souvenir coin to raise money to gift the people France an equestrian statue of the Marquis de Lafayette on the occasion of the 1900 International Exposition in Paris. At first, the Commission asked for 100,000 silver half dollars but when Congress passed the enabling authorization on March 3, 1899, this was changed to 50,000 silver dollars to be sold for $2 a coin. A national campaign by schoolchildren selling the coins went forward, but despite all efforts, the statue was not ready in time for the exposition and instead a plaster model was unveiled.Chief Engraver Charles Barber designed the Lafayette dollar, and said to have based the conjoined heads on the Jean Antoine Houdon bust of Washington and the 1824 "Defender of American and French Liberty" medal by François Augustin Caunois. The reverse shows the proposed Lafayette statue. Additional research by Arlie Slabaugh has since shown that the obverse was very likely a uncredited copy of the 1881 Yorktown Centennial Medal by Philadelphia medalist Peter L. Krider but in very low relief. The coins were all struck on December 14, 1899, on an older low-speed press using handmade dies with the letters and numbers individually punched, a situation unique in the commemorative coin field. A total of 50,000 coins for sale were struck with an additional 26 reserved for assay. The first coin struck was given to William McKinley who had it put into a special presentation case that was then presented to French President Émile Loubet in a special ceremony in the Elysée Palace on March 3, 1900.At the time, the $2 price tag for the coin seems to have been more than what people wanted to pay for the coin, and only a fraction were actually sold during the campaign. Some 14,000 remained unsold in Treasury vaults where they stayed until 1945 when they were melted down for bullion, even though by then the coins were of numismatic interest. A few appear to have been released into general circulation, as many can be found in EF to AU. The coins were not produced especially carefully; in fact they were simply ejected into a hopper after striking like regular circulation coins. Carefully preserved specimens are the exception and are highly sought after. Very few reach the magnificence of the present specimen.