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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

But I Could Have Had a Dr. Steinmetz Coin
November 09, 2007



It was once suggested that I write a book on coinage measures that were proposed but didn't pass into law. It would have been a mammoth and likely tedious process and probably of dubious worth. However, it's sometimes fun to look back at what might have been, what could have been, and what maybe should have been.

Collectors today are not unknown for their grousing about there being too many coins being offered by the U.S. Mint, and that you'd have to be rich to keep up.

A look back at the mid-1930s, during the heyday of the classic commemorative coinage series, suggests that today's collector is not alone in the feeling of being overtaxed.

In 1936, for instance, collectors were offered the following commemorative half dollars, many of which were coined only in that year and others that were continuing series:

Albany, New York, Charter; Arkansas Centennial; Battle of Gettysburg; Bridgeport, Connecticut, Centennial; California-Pacific International Exposition; Cincinnati Music Center; Cleveland Great Lakes Exposition Centennial; Columbia, South Carolina, Sesquicentennial; Delaware Tercentenary; Elgin, Illinois, Centennial; Long Island Tercentenary; Lynchburg, Virginia, Sesquicentennial; Norfolk, Virginia, Bicentennial; Oregon Trail Memorial; Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary; Robinson-Arkansas Centennial; San Diego Pacific Expo; San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Opening; Texas Centennial; Wisconsin Centennial; and York County, Maine, Tercentenary.

But that's only half of the story. A look through issues of The Numismatist for 1936 gives a frightening view of what might have happened in the future if all of the laws submitted for commemorative coins had been approved. Those that didn't make it included:

* A bill for a half dollar honoring the 50th anniversary of the founding of borough of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania.
* A bill for a half dollar for the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of United States.
* A bill for a half dollar to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the journey and explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.
* A bill for a half dollar for the founding of the International Peace Garden at the international boundary line between the United States and Canada, in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota and Manitoba.
* A bill for a half dollar for the 160th anniversary of the arrival of General George Washington and the Continental Army at Morristown, New Jersey, after their inspiring victories at Trenton and Princeton, and the establishment of cantonments in Morristown for the duration of the war.
* A bill for a half dollar for the World's Fair to be held in New York City in 1939 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the first President of the United States of America and of the establishment of the Federal Government in the city of New York.
* A bill for a half dollar in commemoration of the memory of the late Dr. Charles P. Steinmetz.
* A bill for a half dollar for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Hartford, Connecticut.
* A bill for a half dollar for 100th anniversary of admission of Michigan into the Union.

Two other measures - one for a Tri-State (Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) half dollar and another for a half dollar for 100th anniversary of the arrival of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in the Walla Walla, Washington area, and founding of the Waiilatpu Mission - were changed to medals instead of coins.

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Recent Comments
On November 9, 2007 tom said
That's a hoot Bob! Although the triple-play 1939 NYC Half Dollar would have been a top candidate for the U.S's busiest coin design.

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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