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SF To Celebrate First Asian American on U.S. Money. How To Get This Landmark Coin Next Week

Written by Han LiPublished Nov. 04, 2022 • 8:00am
Anna May Wong is printed on the United States quarter dollar coin in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Wong was a Hollywood actress who died in 1961 and the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

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A highly anticipated quarter dollar coin featuring Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress in Hollywood, is officially in circulation now—making her the first Asian American to appear on U.S. currency. 

Legendary movie star Wong was born in 1905. The daughter of Los Angeles Chinatown laundry owners, she began performing in her teenage years and later starred in over 60 movies, earning an acclaimed reputation and a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Film star Anna May Wong poses with a cut rose in 1935. | Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

A 1930 New York Times article said: “Miss Wong is one of the few cinema luminaries able to convey poignant emotion with restraint.”

Wong passed away in 1961. The obituary in New York Times described her as an “unforgettable figure of Hollywood’s great days.”

In the coin design, Wong was depicted with a peaceful and elegant face, her signature bangs and manicured fingernails.

Anna May Wong is printed on the United States quarter dollar coin in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Wong was a Hollywood actress who died in 1961 and the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

The Wong commemorative coin is part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, which aims to highlight the accomplishments of American women. Nine other female individuals, from diverse backgrounds, are also selected by the program.

How To Get Yours and Celebrate in SF

On Nov. 15, San Francisco will host a celebration event at the Main Library, including a reception, short screening of Wong films and a panel. 

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Claudine Cheng, event organizer and chairwoman of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation, said that the U.S. Mint officials from Washington, D.C., are expected to attend.

Chinese American film star Anna May Wong in a publicity shot for “Limehouse Blues,” directed by Alexander Hall in 1934. | Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

San Francisco Chinatown Visitor Information Center and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma will also host a coin exchange event on Nov. 9 where people can bring a regular quarter to exchange for an Anna May Wong quarter. 

The U.S. Mint will host a launch event Friday, Nov. 4, in Los Angeles for a special screening of Wong’s classic film, Shanghai Express, at the Paramount Theatre.

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Han Li can be reached at [email protected]


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