States of the Union

Two scarce key game coins (more accurately 'medallions').
Top: North Dakota. This is the key coin for the prize 'The 13
Original States' bronze medal set. (This one is paired with
Virginia.) Bottom: Montana. This is the key coin in the $1.00
prize section. (This one is paired with Connecticut.)

States of the Union Coin Game - Version 2

Shell’s States of the Union Coin Game, Version 2 was a collect-and-win promotional game released by Shell Oil Company in 1969. Version 2 was distinctly different from Version 1 which you can see here.

In this game, players received a game piece with every visit to a Shell gas station. In the opaque packet was an aluminum coin with one state on one side and another state on the other side. You placed your coin on a game card and tried to collect all the states in one section of the card in which case you won the prize indicated for that section. Some states were instant winners - you only needed the one coin to collect a prize - and these states were shown on the game card.

You could win three things in Version 2 of Shell’s States of the Union Coin Game; cash, a 13-state medal set struck in bronze, or an attractive 50-state set of medals struck in bronze. Cash prizes were $1, $5, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000.

The aluminum game coins, both bronze prize sets and all the packaging materials were produced by The Franklin Mint in 1969.

Version 2 of Shell's States of the Union game was released in some parts of the country while Version 1 was released in others. The two games ran concurrently. In fact, four Shell Oil promotional games ran cuncurrently; Mr. President Coin Game, Famous Facts and Faces, States of the Union Version 1 and States of the Union Version 2. None of them ran at the same time in the same region, but some regions saw two or three of these games in rapid succession in 1968 and 1969.

When released in a region it ran for three to five months then ended. The game pieces were interesting and fun to collect and there are millions of the common game coins still around. The prize-winning key coins are hard to find and, for some, may no longer exist. Therefore, assembling a set of the aluminum game pieces - all forty-six of them - may be impossible.

As for the game coins, thirty-three states were common and the remaining seventeen were key (prize-winning) states. Each of the thirty-three common states were paired with one or two other common states. The seventeen key states were paired with only one common state. This resulted in forty-six different game coins1. Multiple dies were used to strike the coins and some dies have noticeable design differences.

Typical aluminum game piece showing one state on each side.

The Game Pieces

Manufacturer: The Franklin Mint in 1969
Composition: Aluminum alloy, proprietary to The Franklin Mint
Diameter: 26mm
Edge: Reeded
Total Designs: Fifty
Total Different Medallions: Forty-six
Packaging: Square, Opaque, Plastic-Lined Paper Packets
Quantity Produced: Unknown.

The forty-six game coin state pairings may never be known. I have determined thirty-five of them through observation and that list follows. The state that was paired on the key coins will only be known if those key coins (or photos of them) can be found. For some of them, they may no longer exist2.

The forty-six state pairings on the game coins:
AL - CTAL - NYCA - NJCA - VTCO - MACO - RICT - OHFL - ILFL - NYGA - IN
GA - MEIL - VAIN - ORKY - MDLA - NJLA - TXMA - WVMD - TXME - WIMI - OH
MN - SDMN - VAMO - SCMO - SDNC - ORNH - WANV - WANV - WIPA - RIAK - RI
MT - CTHI - GAND - VAMS - CANM - MOAZ - ??NE - ??KS - ??OK - ??IA - ??
UT - ??WY - ??AR - ??TN - ??ID - ??DE - ??

Design Varieties

Design varieties exist for most of the states. This occured when more than one die was produced for a state and the dies were not prepared identically. For many states, coins exist with noticeable variations in the appearance of the lettering, the position of the lettering relative to the state outline, and the surface texture of the coin. For most states, the outline of the state was completely redrawn which created many varieties in the series. For Texas, the outline of the state was drawn at least three times ... each time different ... which has created multiple varieties for that state. A few of the more obvious varieties are shown below. (Images coming soon.)

Below: Front and back of the common version of the game card onto which you placed your game coins. If you filled any of the game sections you won the indicated prize. These game cards were given away free at Shell gas stations, and were inserted in some newspapers as an 'advertising supplement.'

The Prizes

There were three prizes in this game.
1) Cash in the amounts of $1, $5, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000.
2) A bronze medal set with all 50 state medals. This set came in a large envelope with a cardboard mounting board, and an informational pamphlet on all 50 states. All of the bronze sets were produced by The Franklin Mint.
3) A bronze medal set with 13 state medals called 'The 13 Original States.' There were two versions of this set. Both versions can be seen below.

The prizes were won either by collecting all the states in a section of the game card, or by collecting one of the states shown in the INSTANT WINNER section of the game card. The seventeen key, prize-winning states and their corresponding prizes are shown in the following table.

PrizeState
$5,000DelawarePart of a Group
$1,000IdahoInstant Winner
$1,000TennesseePart of a Group
$500WyomingInstant Winner
$500ArkansasPart of a Group
$100UtahInstant Winner
$100IowaPart of a Group
$50OklahomaInstant Winner
$50KansasPart of a Group
$5ArizonaInstant Winner
$5NebraskaPart of a Group
$1HawaiiInstant Winner
$1MontanaPart of a Group
50-State Bronze SetNew MexicoInstant Winner
50-State Bronze SetMississippiPart of a Group
13-State Bronze SetAlaskaInstant Winner
13-State Bronze SetNorth DakotaPart of a Group

Below: This is the 'States of the Union' fifty-state set of medals, struck in bronze, which was one of the prizes in the game. The mounting board has the copyright printed on the right edge of the board. This set was produced by The Franklin Mint (as was all the game pieces and game prizes) and came in an envelope with the medals, a cardboard display to mount the medals, and an informational pamphlet with details about all fifty states. This prize is similar to the prize awarded in Version 1 of the game (which you can see here).


Below: The envelope that the fifty-state set of bronze medals set came in.

Below: The informational pamphlet that came with the fifty-state bronze prize set.
Below: Components of the '13 Original States' bronze prize set. On the game card it is also referred to as the 'Colonial States Set.' There were two versions of the set. The first version came with a thin plastic mounting tray for the medals but the trays were low-quality and broke easily. Sets produced later in the game came with a cardboard mounting board for the medals. All the sets came in an envelope (about 8.5" x 5.75") which included the medals (most came in a plastic mesh bag), a mounting board, and an informational pamphlet titled 'The First Thirteen.' The medals were identical to the ones produced for the fifty-state set. This is the envelope that the set came in.

Below: The thirteen medals usually came sealed in a plastic mesh bag.

Below: The plastic tray that was included with sets early in the game.

Below: The cardboard mounting board that was included with sets later in the game. (Medals are mounted in this example.)

Below: The front of the pamphlet included with all the sets.

1 I have thirty-five of the forty-six coins. I am not aware of anyone with a larger collection.
2 If you can help solve the mystery, send an email to me at this address: travelbug -at- billjamie.com.

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