The California-Pacific Exposition Half-Dollars

In 1935 and 1936, an International Exposition was held in San Diego, California. The precedent for a coinage observing a Californian Exposition was not lacking; and due to the success of the many previous Expositions, an authorization of 250,000 coins was secured. The bill authorizing this issue follows:

[PUBLIC—No. 50—74TH CONGRESS]

AN ACT TO authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in connection with the California-Pacific International Exposition to be held in San Diego, California, in 1935 and 1936.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, to indicate the interest of the Government of the United States in the fulfillment of the ideals and purposes of the California-Pacific International Exposition, there shall be coined by the Director of the Mint silver 50-cent pieces to the number of not more than 250,000, of standard weight and fineness and of a special appropriate design to be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, but the United States shall not be subject to the expense of making the models for master dies or other preparations for this coinage.

SEC. 2. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 2, but upon the request of the California-Pacific International exposition Company or its duly authorized agent, page 99.)

SEC. 3. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 3, but California-Pacific International Exposition.)

SEC, 4. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 4.)

Approved, May 3, 1935.

The coin was designed by Robert Aitken, who had previously designed the Panama-Pacific quintuple-eagles and the Missouri half-dollars. During the month of August, 1935, there were struck at the San Francisco Mint, 250,132 half-dollars. These pieces were released by the California-Pacific International Exposition Commission at one dollar each, and a very extensive campaign was waged to market the coins.

Although the Exposition was a notable success to the extent that it was held over from the 1935 season, the half-dollar was not very popular with collectors, because of the large coinage.

At about this time, commemorative coin collectors throughout the nation became coinage-figure conscious. Coinage figures for a while determined retail values. Large authorizations meant a tremendous floating supply of coins, which would have little value to the commemorative coin collector or to his new companion, the commemorative coin speculator.

To combat this situation, the California-Pacific International Exposition’s Coin Commission succeeded in having a bill passed by Congress which was designed to permit the recoinage of 1935 half-dollars into 1936 half-dollars at the Denver Mint, thus providing for collectors the stimulus of an added date and an additional mint-mark. Thus, the San Diego set has now the distinction of being the only series on which two different mint-marks appear, and which had no coinage at Philadelphia. The bill authorizing the recoinage is as follows:

[PUBLIC—NO. 566—74TH CONGRESS]

AN ACT TO authorize the recoinage of 50-cent pieces in connection with the California-Pacific International Exposition to be held in San Diego, California, in 1936.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, to indicate the interest of the Government of the United States in the continuation of the California-pacific International Exposition at San Diego, California, for the year 1936, the Director of the Mint is authorised to receive from the California-Pacific International Exposition Company, or its duly authorized agent, not to exceed one hundred and eighty thousand silver 50-cent pieces heretofore coined under authority of an Act of Congress approved May 3, 1935, and recoin the same, under the same terms and conditions as contained in said Act: Provided, That the coins herein authorized shall all be of the same design, shall bear the date 1936 irrespective of the year in which they are minted or issued, and shall be coined at one of the mints of the United States to be designated by the Director of the Mint; and not less than five thousand such coins shall be issued at any one time and no such coins shall be issued after the expiration of one year after the date of enactment of this Act

SEC. 2. The United States shall not be subject to the expense of making preparations for this recoinage, and such coins shall be issued only to California-Pacific I International Exposition Company, or its duly authorized agent, which may dispose of the same at par or at a premium: Provided, That all proceeds therefrom shall be used in furtherance of the California-Pacific international projects.

SEC. 3. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 4, page 99.)

Approved, May 6, 1936.

The additional recoinage of the San Diego half-dollars is worthy of more than passing note, since many interesting factors are involved. The original Act authorized the coinage of not more than a quarter-million of this issue. The recoinage permitted the reissuing of one hundred and eighty thousand pieces, but added the many features which had become a part of the commemorative coinage legislation. Thus we read that all the re-coined pieces shall bear the date 1936, irrespective of the coinage year, and that they shall be struck at one Mint, and that the Act shall be ineffective after a year. Since these clauses had been introduced into commemorative coinage legislation to prevent additional varieties, it is singular to find them in a “recoinage” Act which authorized a second variety. The purpose of their inclusion here, of course, was to prevent a variety beyond the second. The original authorization permitted the coinage of 250,000 half-dollars. The recoinage permitted 180,000 pieces of the original coinage to bear a different date and mint-mark. The Mints, therefore, under the two authorizations at different times had to prepare a total of 430,000 half-dollars, although a total coinage of 250,000 pieces was the original limitation placed upon this issue, beyond which further pieces could not be coined. At no time were more than 250,000 pieces outstanding.

These were released by the Commission at one dollar and fifty cents each. Of this recoinage issue, 150,000 were returned to the Mint and melted. A special issue of postage stamps was also released.

Obv. Seated female, wearing crested helmet, facing right. Left hand holds upright spear, and right rests upon a shield. On shield, a facing head of Medusa with inscription above bearing State’s motto in small letters: EVREKA Beside shield, an overflowing cornucopia in the foreground. At left of female, seated bear facing left. To left of bear, in reduced scale, a man with pickax. In distance at left, a three-masted vessel sailing to right. Mountains are faintly outlined in background.
Around upper border, in large letters: ♦ UNITED • STATES • OF • AMERICA • (TES of STATES partly behind helmet). Around lower border, In large letters: HALF • DOLLAR In exergue, In small letter LIBERTY At extreme left border, artist’s monogram in relief: RA

Rev. Observation tower and dome of the State of California Building at the San Diego Exposition with palm-tree tops at either side. In continuous legend around raised border, commencing at upper right: CALIFORNIA • PACIFIC • INTERNATIONAL • EXPOSITION • (R of CALIFORNIA behind tower). In exergue, in smaller letters: IN GOD / WE TRUST / S In upper left field above dome: SAN DIEGO In center right field: 1935 Field above buildings enclosed by border of three arches with angles at intersections.

Edge. Reeded. 30 mm. Silver.

Lettering. Roman.

93, Same, but mint-mark D, dated 1936.

The commission handling this issue has been very active. Not only was the commission successful in having its unsaleable surplus recoined by Act of Congress, but in addition it retained pieces which were then offered at three dollars apiece. The commission thus raised the price which it asked for its own issues. In 1937, the commission was asking three dollars each for either the 1935S or 1936D issue.

THE PROVIDENCE TERCENTENARY HALF-DOLLARS

The & three-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Providence, the first settlement in Rhode Island, by the great leader Roger Williams, was commemorated by a half-dollar of special design authorized by Congress in 1935.

Roger Williams was a Puritan, who was forced to leave Salem, Massachusetts, because of his political and religious views. He went to Rhode Island arriving at Slate Rock, and founded Providence in 1636, where he preached tolerance, religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

Providence, R. I., flourished during the Colonial period and became one of the most important towns in New England. In 1832, Providence secured a charter as a City, and during the nineteenth century developed as a manufacturing center.

Appropriate celebrations were held throughout Rhode Island during the Tercentenary year, and a special postage stamp was released.

The Act of Congress authorizing this issue was combined with the Act authorizing the Hudson, New York, Sesquicentennial coinage, which is given on page 117.

The designs for this coin were prepared jointly by John Howard Benson and Arthur Graham Carey, both of Newport, R. I. The reduction of the models was made by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

The authorization of 50,000 coins was distributed between the three mints as follows:

Mint Month and Year Coinage

Philadelphfa January, 1936 20,013

San Francisco February, 1936 15,011

Denver February, 1936 15,010

The coins were distributed by the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Tercentenary Commission, Inc., which was successful in disposing of the entire issue of 50,000 pieces within forty-eight hours after they had been placed on public sale, at one dollar each. Speculation in this issue and the phenomenal rapidity of absorption caused much acrid comment by collectors.

94. Obv. Roger Williams in a canoe, with right hand raised in welcome, and holding Bible in left. On Rock, stands an Indian welcoming him in Indian sign language. In background, the “sun of religious liberty” L-I-B-E-R-T-Y above in small letters. Behind Indian, a stalk of maize. All within hair line border. Around outer circumference, in large letters, two legends commencing at upper left: IN • GOD • WE • TRUST and : 1636 • RHODE • ISLAND • 1936:

Rev. Anchor of Hope, with shield and mantling in background. On lower portion of shield: E • PLURIBUS • UNUM in small letters, and above shield a ribbon bearing word: • HOPE • Around upper border, in large letters: UNITED • STATES • OF • AMERICA Around lower border: HALF • DOLLAR:

Edge. Reeded. 30 mm. Silver.

Lettering. Gothic.

95. Same, but mint-mark S directly below stalk of maize on obverse, 1936.

96. Same, but mint-mark D, 1936.

In the Act authorizing this coinage, there is no mention made of the Mint, and it was the Director of the Mint who determined whether the coinage should be prepared at one or more mints.

Although this issue was authorized to commemorate the founding of the city of Providence, no mention of the city appears on the coinage.

THE COLUMBIA SESQUICENTENNIAL HALF-DOLLARS

The Columbia, South Carolina, souvenir half-dollars were authorized early in 1936 to mark the sesquicentennial of the founding of that city as the capital in 1786. What was forest land at the time the site was selected for the State capital had developed into a flourishing city.

Extensive celebrations were held in the State during 1936, and, as an aid in financing these undertakings, a special half-dollar was authorized by Congress.

The coinage Act follows:

[PUBLIC—No. 476—74TH CONGRESS]

AN ACT TO authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of the capital of South Carolina at Columbia, South Carolina.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, in commemoration of the one hundred andfiftieth anniversary of the founding of the capital of South Carolina at Columbia, South Carolina, there shall be coined by the Director of the Mint twenty-five thousand silver 50-cent pieces, such coins to be of standard size, weight, and fineness of a special appropriate design to be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, but the United States shall not be subject to the expense of making the model for master dies or other preparations for this coinage.

SEC. 2. Coins commemorating the founding of the capital of South Carolina at Columbia, South Carolina, shall be issued at par, and only upon the request of a committee of not less than three persons duly authorized by the mayor of the city of Columbia, South Carolina.

SEC. 3. (Same as Maryland issue. Section 3, but for commemoration of the founding of the capital of South Carolina at Columbia, South Carolina, page 99.)

SEC, 4. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 4.)

SEC. 5. The coins authorized herein shall be issued in such numbers, and at such times as they may be requested by the committee, duly authorized by said mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, only upon payment to the United States of the face value of such coins.

Approved, March 18, 1936.

This Act was the first concerning commemorative coinage to be passed in 1936, and it was also the first Act which provided a fixed total for the issue. The Director of the Mint was charged with its production, as was the case with a number of the previous coinage Acts. The Act merely specified a coinage and it was the interpretation of the phraseology which made possible a coinage in small quantities divided among the three mints.

This issue was designed by A. Wolfe Davidson, an art student at Clemson College, South Carolina.

The models were reduced by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

Striking of the coins was divided among the three mints, as follows: Philadelphia 9,007; San Francisco

8,007; Denver 8,009.

The majority of these pieces were coined during September 1936; in fact, they were among the last commemorative pieces of that year, notwithstanding the fact that this coinage was the first approved in 1936. Many issues authorized after that for Columbia, S. C., were released prior to this issue. 1

The coins were released by the commission appointed by the Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, in complete sets of three pieces at six dollars and forty-five cents per set. The distribution was made by the commission on a very fair basis, and few persons were able to secure these coins in quantity. It made every endeavor to treat the collector fairly and to prevent the speculator from manipulating the prices of the sets in the open market, as had been done with many previous commemorative issues.

97. Obv. Justice, holding sword pointed to ground in right hand and scales in left. At left, Capitol of 1786, with date: 1786 below. Above, in small letters: LIBERTY At right, Capitol of 1936, with date: 1936 below. All devices and types within field lower than rim. Around upper circumference, within two borders on rim: SESQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE CAPITAL Around lower circumference, meeting upper inscription: COLUMBIA SOUTH CAROLINA

Rev. Palmetto tree, the state emblem of South Carolina, with oak branch at base. Directly above tree, in small letters, curved: E • PLURIBUS • UNUM In left field, in small letters: IN GOD / WE TRUST Surrounding tree and mottoes, a semi-circle of thirteen five-pointed stars; the devices and types upon a raised field. Around outer border below medallion, at top: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in large letters. At bottom: HALF DOLLAR

Edge. Reeded. 30 mm. Silver. I

Lettering. Gothic. 1

98. Same, but mint-mark s below figure of Justice, 1936.

99. Same, but mint-mark D, 1936.

The broken oak at the base of the palmetto tree is intended to symbolize the failure of a British attack during the Revolutionary War. The palmetto trees proved to be excellent shelter and the inhabitants were able to repel the British oaken ships.

THE CINCINNATI HALF-DOLLARS

A series of three souvenir half-dollars was struck in order to commemorate in a fitting manner the fiftieth anniversary of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, as a musical center.

The authorizing Act for this coinage follows:

[PUBLIC—No. 485—74TH CONGRESS]

AN ACT TO authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Cincinnati, Ohio, as a center of music, and its contribution to the art of music for the past fifty years.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary in 1936 of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, as a center of music and to commemorate Cincinnati s contribution to the art of music in the United States for the past fifty years, there shall be coined, at the mints of the United States, silver 50-cent pieces to the number of not more than fifteen thousand, such 50-cent pieces to be of the standard troy weight, composition, diameter, device, and such design as shall be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, Such 50-cent pieces shall be legal tender in any payment to the amount of their face value.

SEC. 2. (Same as Stone Mountain issue, Section 2, but upon the request of the Cincinnati Musical Center Commemorative Coin Association, of Cincinnati, Ohio,

page 63.)

SEC. 3. (Same as Illinois issue, Section 2, page 38.)

Approved, March 31, 1936.

The obverse shows the portrait of Stephen Foster, the popular composer and song writer of the nineteenth century. In 1926, a commemorative issue for Stephen Foster had been suggested by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the centennial of his birth in 1826 in that city. He was the composer of “Old Folks at Home,” “Oh Susannah,” “Old Kentucky Home,” “Nelly was a Lady,” etc.

The coins were designed by Constance Ortmayer of Washington, D. C. During July, 1936, the entire authorized issue of 15,000 Cincinnati, Ohio, Musical Center half-dollars was coined at the three mints as follows: Philadelphia 5,005; San Francisco 5,006; Denver 5,005.

Due to the very limited coinage authorized and the fact that the commemorative half-dollar wave was at its peak, the entire issue was over-subscribed prior to the release of the first set. These pieces were sold in sets only, in printed cards. The price per set was established at seven dollars and seventy-fivecents-a new high level for the initial cost of a newtype. A number of sets were released with special numbers signifying the order in which they were coined.



100. Obv. Head of Stephen Foster to right. Below bust, in small letters, curved: STEPHEN FOSTER • AMERICA’S TROUBADOUR Around upper circumference: UNITED • STATES • OF • AMERICA At lower border: HALF DOLLAR In left field, near bust, faintly in relief, the designer’s monogram: CO

Rev. Female figure representing music, on one knee, looking at lyre which she holds with both hands. In upper left field, the date: 1886 and in lower right field, the date: 1936 In exergue, in small letters: IN GOD WE TRUST / E PLURIBUS UNUM / LIBERTY All within medallion. Around border, in large letters, a continuous inscription, beginning at upper left: CINCINNATI • A • MUSIC • CENTER • OF •AMERICA •

Edge. Reeded. 30 mm. Silver.

Lettering. Gothic.

Same, but on reverse, in right field below date, mint-mark s.
Same, but mint-mark D.
The Cincinnati Musical Center issue is extraordinary in that the anniversary celebrated bears no

Relation to the portrait of Foster on the obverse, as Foster died in 1864, twenty-two years prior to the founding of the Liederkranz Musical Society in 1886.

As on the Bridgeport issue, the three phrases required by law to appear upon the coinage art relegated to an unimportant position and are seen in small letters.

It is interesting to observe that despite the very limited authorization of only 15,000 half-dollars, the phrase “at the Mints” was inserted. At this period, the authorizing Acts read: “to be coined by the Director of the Mint”—the Cincinnati issue was the very last Act authorizing a coinage of souvenir half-dollars with the specific provision that the pieces shall be coined “at the mints.”

THE LONG ISLAND TERCENTENARY HALF-DOLLAR

To commemorate the three-hundredth anniversary of the first white settlement on Long Island, New York, Congress authorized a souvenir half-dollar, the Act reading at follows:

[PUBLIC—No. 517—74TH CONGRESS]

AN ACT To authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first settlement on Long Island, New York.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in commemoration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the funding of the first settlement on Long Island, New York, there shall be coined at a mint of the United States to be designated by the Director of the Mint not to exceed one hundred thousand silver 50-cent pieces of standard size, weight, and composition, and of a special appropriate single design to be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, but the United States shall not be subject to the expense of making the necessary dies and other preparations for this coinage.

SEC .2. The coins herein authorized shall bear the date 1936, irrespective of the year in which they are Minted or issued, shall be legal tender in any payment to the amount of their face value, and shall be issued only upon the request of the chairman or secretary of the Long Island Tercentenary Committee upon payment by him of the par value of such coins, but not less than five thousand such coins shall be issued to him at any one time and no such coins shall be issued after the expiration of one year after the date of enactment of this Act. Such coins may be disposed of at par or at a premium by such committee and the net proceeds shall be used by it in defraying the expenses incidental and appropriate to the commemoration of such event.

SEC. 3. (Same as Maryland issue, Section 4, page 99.)

Approved, April 13, 1937.

The design was made by Howard Kenneth Weinman, of New York, a son of the celebrated sculptor, A.A. Weinman. The models were reduced by the Medallie Art Company of New York.

In August, 1936, the authorized issue of 100,053 pieces was coined at the Philadelphia Mint. These pieces were distributed by the banks through-out Long Island at one dollar each: and in view of the large authorizations as well as the speculative demand for commemorative half-dollars of small issues only, the Long Island Tercentenary Commission was notably successful in disposing of nearly the entire coinage. Late in 1936, there were 18,227 pieces returned to the mint to be melted- a comparatively small quantity.

The first settlement was made on Jamaica Bay by Dutch colonists.

103. Obv. Accolated heads right, depicting an early Dutch settler and an Algonquin Indian. Around upper border: LIBERTY (Bases of IB and RT of LIBERTY behind heads.) At lower border: E PLURI-BUS UNUM (The PL of PLURIBUS touching the Dutch settler’s collar.) Below the Indian’s chin, the designer’s monogram, in relief: •HW.

Rev. Dutch three-masted vessel sailing to right. Incused in small letters on waves: • IN GOD WE TRUST • Around upper circumference: UNITED STATES OF A — MERICA HALF DOLLAR In exergue: • 1936 • and curved: LONG ISLAND / • TERCENTENARY •

Edge. Reeded. 30 mm. Silver.

Gothic.
This coin has been generally criticized because of its stereotyped design, as so many of the previous half-dollars bear accolated busts on the obverse, and ships on the reverse.

This Act was the first to contain the provision that “the coins shall bear the date 1936, irrespective of the year in which they are minted or issued,” a most extraordinary regulation, but one which has been quite widely used in commemorative coinage bills of recent date. This policy of fixing the date which is to appear on the issue, has resulted in much confusion in instances where coins were struck prior to or after the date they bore.

The Act states the minimum number of coins which the commission may order at one time, thus preventing a recurrence of the small coinage rarities. It also limits the length of time to one year, during which a commission may function in with- drawing its entire authorization from the Mint. Thus, a commission may not continuously re-issue the same coin year after year.

This Act was also the first to specify that the coins should be struck “at a mint,” making impossible the production of three varieties of a single type by the introduction of mint-marks.

Collectors attribute this change in the text of the commemorative coinage Acts, to a hearing on Commemorative Coinage held before the Committee on Banking and Currency during March, 1936. In this “Hearing,” the abuses to which the commemorative coinages had been subjected were thoroughly aired, from an official standpoint, and the result was apparent in the subsequent Acts. Within a month after the hearing, many of the evils disappeared.

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