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Maine Centennial half dollar

The Maine Centennial half dollar is a commemorative coin struck in 1920 by the
Maine Centennial half
United States Bureau of the Mint. It was sculpted by Anthony de Francisci,
dollar
following sketches by an unknown artist from theU.S. state of Maine.
United States
Officials in Maine wanted a commemorative half dollar to circulate as an
Value 50 cents or 0.50
advertisement for the centennial of the state's admission to the Union, and of the
US dollars
planned celebrations. A bill to allow such a coin passed Congress without
Mass 12.5 g
opposition, but then the state's centennial commission decided to sell the coins for 1
dollar, double the face value. The Commission of Fine Arts disliked the proposed Diameter 30.61 mm
design, and urged changes, but Maine officials insisted, and de Francisci converted Thickness 2.15 mm
the sketches to plaster models, from whichcoinage dies could be made. (0.08 in)

Fifty thousand pieces, half the authorized mintage, were struck for release to the Edge Reeded
public. They were issued too late to be sold at the centennial celebrations in Composition 90.0% silver
Portland, but eventually the coins were all sold, though relatively few went to coin 10.0% copper
collectors. Today they list for hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on
Silver 0.36169 troy oz
condition.
Years of minting 1920
Mintage 50,028 including
28 pieces for the
Contents
Assay
Inception and legislation Commission
Preparation Mint marks None, all pieces
Design struck at the
Production, distribution, and collecting Philadelphia Mint
References without mint
Sources mark
External links Obverse

Inception and legislation


Governor Carl Milliken and the council of Maine wanted a half dollar issued to
commemorate the centennial of the state's 1820 admission to the Union. Initially, the
idea was to have a circulating commemorative that could advertise the centennial
celebrations in Maine. Later, after federal authorizing legislation for the coin was
approved by Congress, the centennial commission decided to sell the coins for $1
[1]
each, rather than letting them pass from hand to hand in circulation.

That legislation for a Maine Centennial half dollar had been introduced in the House
of Representatives by the state's John A. Peters on February 11, 1920, with the bill Design Arms of Maine
designated as H.R. 12460.[2] It was referred to the Committee on Coinage, Weights Designer Anthony de
and Measures, of which Indiana Congressman Albert Vestal was the chairman. Francisci, based
When the committee met, on February 23, 1920, Congressman Peters told members on sketches by
of the history of the state and citizens' desire to celebrate the centennial, including
with a commemorative coin. He stated that he had spoken with the Director of the an unknown
Mint, Raymond T. Baker, who had told Peters that he and Treasury Secretary David artist
F. Houston planned to endorse the bill, the text of which had been borrowed from the Design date 1920
bill authorizing the 1918Illinois Centennial half dollar. Ohio's William A. Ashbrook
Reverse
recalled that he had been a member of the committee that had approved the Illinois
bill; he had favored it and now favored the Maine bill. Minnesota's Oscar E. Keller
asked Peters to confirm there would be no expense to the federal government, which
Peters did.[3] Clay Stone Briggs of Texas wanted to know if the Maine bill's
provisions were identical to those of the Illinois act, and Peters confirmed it.[4] On
March 20, Vestal filed a report on behalf of his committee, recommending that the
House pass the bill, and reproducing a letter from Houston stating that the Treasury
had no objection.[5]

Three coinage bills—Maine Centennial, Alabama Centennial, and Pilgrim


Tercentenary—were considered in that order by the House of Representatives on
April 21, 1920. After Peters addressed the House in favor of the Maine bill,
Connecticut's John Q. Tilson inquired if the proposed coin would replace the
Design Pine wreath
existing design (the Walking Liberty half dollar) for the rest of the year; Peters Designer Anthony de
explained that it would not, and that only 100,000 coins would bear the Francisci, based
commemorative design.[6] John Franklin Miller of Washington state asked who on sketches by
would bear the expenses of the coinage dies, and Peters responded that the state of an unknown
Maine would. Virginia's Andrew Jackson Montague asked if the Treasury artist
Department had endorsed the bill, and Peters informed him that both Houston and Design date 1920
Baker had. Vestal asked that the bill be passed, but Ohio's Warren Gard had
questions about what would happen to the coins once they entered circulation; Peters stated that they would, once issued, be treated
as ordinary half dollars. In response to questions by Gard, Peters explained that although Maine would pay for the dies, they would
become federal government property. Peters added that though there would be no statewide celebration in Maine for the centennial,
there would be local observances. Gard had no further questions about the Maine bill (he would also quiz the sponsors of the
Alabama and Pilgrim bills), and on Vestal's motion it passed without recorded dissent.[7]

The following day, April 22, 1920, the House reported its passage of the Maine bill to the Senate.[8] The bill was referred to the
Senate Committee on Banking and Currency; on April 28, Connecticut's George P. McLean reported it back with a recommendation
that it pass.[9] On May 3, McLean asked that the three coin bills (Maine, Alabama and Pilgrim) be considered by the Senate
immediately, fearing that though they were on the Senate's agenda for that day
, they might not be reached, and believing urgent action
was required. Utah Senator Reed Smoot objected: Smoot's attempt to bring up an anti-dumping trade bill out of turn had just been
objected to by Charles S. Thomas of Colorado. Smoot, however, stated if the coin bills had not been reached by about 2:00 pm, there
would probably not be any objection.[10] When McLean tried again to advance the coin bills, Kansas' Charles Curtis asked if there
was any urgency. McLean replied that as the three coin bills were to mark ongoing anniversaries, there was a need to have them
authorized and get the production process started. All three bills passed the Senate without opposition[11] and the Maine bill was
enacted with the signature of PresidentWoodrow Wilson on May 10, 1920.[2]

Preparation
On May 14, 1920, four days after Wilson signed the bill, Director of the Mint Baker sent sketches of the proposed design to the
chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, Charles Moore, for an opinion as to its merits. The design had been prepared by the
officials in charge of the centennial commemoration, and had been given to Baker by Peters. Moore forwarded the sketches to the
sculptor-member of the Commission, James Earle Fraser. Having received no reply, Moore on May 26 sent a telegram to Fraser
telling him that the Maine authorities wanted the coins by June 28. Fraser immediately replied by telegram, that he disliked the
design as it was "ordinary", and that it was an error to approve sketches; a plaster model should be made by a sculptor. Moore
expanded on this in a letter to Houston the following day, "our new silver coinage
has reached a high degree of perfection because it was designed by competent men.
[12]
We should not return to the low standards which have formerly prevailed."

Moore in his letter urged a change of design, stating that the sketch, if translated into
a coin, "would bring humiliation to the people of Maine".[1] However, Maine
officials refused and insisted on the submitted sketches.[13] After discussions among
Peters, Moore, and various officials, an agreement was reached whereby the
sketches would be converted into plaster models, and Fraser engaged his onetime
student, Anthony de Francisci, to do the work. The younger sculptor completed the
Anthony de Francisci
work by early July, and the models were approved by the Commission on July 9.[14]
The Engraving Department at thePhiladelphia Mint created the coin dies utilizing de
Francisci's models.[13] Either Chief Engraver George T. Morgan, or his assistant, future chief engraver John R. Sinnock, changed the
moose and pine tree on the coin from being in relief (as in de Francisci's models), to be sunken into the coin. This was probably in an
attempt to improve the striking quality of the coins, and if so, had limited success, as the full detail would not appear on many
coins.[15]

Design
The obverse of the Maine Centennial half dollar depicts the arms of Maine, based on
the state's seal. At its center is a shield with a pine tree, sunken incuse into the coin,
and below the tree a moose, lying down. The shield is flanked by two male figures,
one bearing a scythe and representing Agriculture; the other, supporting an anchor,
represents Commerce. Above the shield is the legend Dirigo, Latin for "I direct",
and above that a five-pointed star. Below the shield is a scroll with the state's name.
Near the rim are UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR. The reverse
contains a wreath of pine needles and cones (Maine is known as the Pine Tree State)
around MAINE CENTENNIAL 1820–1920 as well as the various mottoes required by
law to be present on the coinage.[16][17]

Numismatist Don Taxay, in his history of commemorative coins, speculated that "De
The Seal of Maine
[sic] Francisci did not altogether favor them".[18] According to Taxay, the two
human figures on the obverse "were too small to retain their beauty after reduction
[from the plaster models to coin size] and seem trivial. The reverse, with its wreath of pine cones, is eminently uninspired."[18] Arlie
Slabaugh, in his volume on commemoratives, noted that the half dollar "does not resemble the work by the same sculptor for the
Peace dollar the following year [1921]."[19]

Art historian Cornelius Vermeule deprecated the Maine half dollar, but did not blame de Francisci, as the piece "was modeled by the
sculptor according to required specifications and is therefore not considered typical of his art, or indeed of any art."[20] Vermeule
stated, "it looks just like a prize medal for a county fair or school athletic day."[20] Nonetheless, feeling that de Francisci could have
[21]
insisted on a more artistic design, Vermeule found "the Maine Centennial was not his shining moment".

Production, distribution, and collecting


Celebrations for the state's centennial were held in Maine's largest city, Portland, on July 4, 1920. Peters had hoped to have the half
dollars available for distribution then, but because of the design controversy, they were not. He wrote to Assistant Director of the
Mint Mary M. O'Reilly on July 14, expressing his frustration at the delay and stating that though the Portland festivities had passed,
the state could still get some benefit from the coins if they received them during 1920. Otherwise, "we might as well wait for the next
Centennial [in 2020] which I judge would be more convenient and in accordance with the speed at which we are going".[22] He
concluded by asking that the Mint let him know of the next obstacle ahead of time.
Governor Milliken also wrote, on July 20, reminding Mint officials that the coin was
authorized by a special act of Congress, and asking when the first consignment
would be ready.[22]

In the late summer of 1920, a total of 50,028 Maine Centennial half dollars were
produced at the Philadelphia Mint, including 28 pieces reserved for inspection and
De Francisci designed thePeace
dollar in 1921. testing at the 1921 meeting of the annual Assay Commission.[23] No special care
was taken in the minting; they were ejected into bins and many display bag
marks.[24] They were sent to Maine and placed on sale through the Office of the
State Treasurer at a price of $1. Thirty thousand sold immediately and they remained on sale through the treasurer's office until all
fifty thousand were vended,[23] though this did not happen until at least 1929.[25] Bowers speculated that had the full 100,000
authorized coins been struck, most of the additional quantity would have been returned to the Mint and melted for lack of buyers.[26]
[24]
Many pieces were spent in the years after 1920 and entered circulation.

Relatively few were sold to the coin collecting community, and the majority of surviving specimens display the effects of careless
handling. The 2015 deluxe edition of Richard S. Yeoman's A Guide Book of United States Coins lists the coin at $140 to $685,
[27]
depending on condition—an exceptional piece sold for $7,050 in 2014.

References
1. Bowers, pp. 135–36. 10. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 6443 (http
2. "Maine Statehood 100th Anniversary 50-Cent Piece" s://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?dbnam
(http://li.proquest.com/legislativeinsight/LegHistMain.js e=1920_record&position=all&page=6443)(May 3,
p?searchtype=DOCPAGE&parentAccNo=PL66-199&d 1920) (subscription required)
ocAccNo=PL66-199&docType=LEG_HIST&resultsClic 11. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 6454 (http
k=true&id=1469797716831). ProQuest Congressional. s://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?dbnam
Retrieved July 30, 2016. e=1920_record&position=all&page=6454)(May 3,
3. House hearings, pp. 3–5. 1920) (subscription required)
4. House hearings, pp. 2–4, 8–9. 12. Taxay, pp. 39–40.
5. House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures 13. Bowers, p. 136.
(March 20, 1920). "Coinage of 50-Cent Pieces in 14. Taxay, pp. 40–42.
Commemoration of the Admission of the State of 15. Swiatek & Breen, pp. 147, 150.
Maine into the Union" (https://openlibrary.org/books/O
16. Swiatek, pp. 110–11.
L18296332M/).
17. Swiatek & Breen, p. 147.
6. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 5947 (http
s://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?dbnam 18. Taxay, p. 42.
e=1920_record&position=all&page=5947)(April 21, 19. Slabaugh, p. 41.
1920) (subscription required) 20. Vermeule, p. 159.
7. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 5947–5950 21. Vermeule, p. 160.
(https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?db 22. Flynn, pp. 296–297.
name=1920_record&position=all&page=5947–5950)
23. Swiatek, p. 111.
(April 21, 1920) (subscription required)
24. Flynn, p. 120.
8. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 5966 (http
s://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?dbnam 25. Bowers, p. 137.
e=1920_record&position=all&page=5966)(April 22, 26. Bowers, p. 138.
1920) (subscription required) 27. Yeoman, p. 1125.
9. 1920 Congressional Record, Vol. 66, Page 6202 (http
s://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/delivery/getpage.action?dbnam
e=1920_record&position=all&page=6202)(April 28,
1920) (subscription required)
Sources
Bowers, Q. David (1992). Commemorative Coins of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia . Wolfeboro, NH:
Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc.ISBN 978-0-943161-35-8.
Flynn, Kevin (2008). The Authoritative Reference on Commemorative Coins 1892–1954 . Roswell, GA: Kyle Vick.
OCLC 711779330.
Slabaugh, Arlie R. (1975).United States Commemorative Coinage(second ed.). Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing.
ISBN 978-0-307-09377-6.
Swiatek, Anthony (2012).Encyclopedia of the Commemorative Coins of the United States . Chicago: KWS
Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9817736-7-4.
Swiatek, Anthony & Breen, Walter (1981). The Encyclopedia of United States Silver & Gold Commemorative Coins,
1892 to 1954. New York: Arco Publishing. ISBN 978-0-668-04765-4.
Taxay, Don (1967). An Illustrated History of U.S. Commemorative Coinage . New York: Arco Publishing. ISBN 978-0-
668-01536-3.
United States House of Representatives Committee on Coinage, W eights and Measures (March 26, 1920).
Authorizing Coinage of Memorial 50-Cent Piece for the State of Alabama. United States Government Printing Office.
Vermeule, Cornelius (1971). Numismatic Art in America. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press. ISBN 978-0-674-62840-3.
Yeoman, R.S. (2015). A Guide Book of United States Coins(1st Deluxe ed.). Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing.
ISBN 978-0-7948-4307-6.

External links
Media related to Maine Centennial half dollarat Wikimedia Commons

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