Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1989

Brilliant Proofs Make a Comeback, 1936-1964
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1936 "Robinson" Half Dollar

Commemoratives. Arkansas "Robinson" Half Dollar. Made in January 1937, despite the date. Wayte Raymond owned four of these, of which one went cheaply in NN61. The illustration in that catalogue is extremely revealing compared to an ordinary specimen, as the relief details are sharp enough to make business strikes look worn by comparison! Lester Merkin reports a "brilliant" proof, which may have been satin finish; I have not seen it. The matte proofs, despite their sharpness, may be the original of Arlie Slabaugh's comment that they are hardly distinguishable from uncirculated pieces. But after seeing the Raymond coins, I could not disagree more. Though Stack's distributed this issue, they have no record of the proofs.

Rumors persist of most of the other 1936 commemoratives in matte, sandblast, or satin finish proof, but reliable information is still lacking.


Cent. [9320] Extra brilliant, even the devices partly mirrorlike, as on the later or Type II coins of 1936.

Five Cents. [5769] Exactly as the cent.

Dime. [5756] Likewise.

Quarter. [5542] Likewise. From the 1936 obv. hub only. Rev. Higher relief ("Type II", 1937-64). E S apart, leaf extends above top arrowpoint, different from business strikes. Lowest proof mintage this year, thus vulgarly termed a "key" coin for assembling sets. Forgeries similar to 1936 may exist.

Half Dollar. [5728] Similar finish. Third hub (1937 only). Only one ray almost vertical (preceding types have two rays nearly vertical and touching or about touching flag). This ray almost touches flag, its r. hand neighbor entirely free. All rays thinner than before. Two varieties, normal or extra thin letters in motto (lapped die) - 1973 GENA:617-619. Which is rarer? Often found nicked and scratched. Forgeries similar to 1936 may exist.

Proof sets. Not over 5542 could have been made, probably fewer. Hoarded and subjected to much speculation.

Commemoratives. Arkansas Centennial Half Dollar. At least two semi-brilliant proofs reported with this date. Fields were not well adapted to burnishing of dies. Rumors exist of proofs (matte?) of the Roanoke Island and Antietam halves; unconfirmed.


1938 Jefferson Five Cents

Cent. [14,734) Similar to the 1937 issue.

Five Cents. [19,365] Jefferson design. Brilliant fields; rarely seen with frost on portrait, still more rarely with frost on both portrait and building. Two notable' varieties:

- Letters normal, star of irregular shape. Not rare. Much hoarded as first year.

- Letters extremely thin, ERTY mere wisps, the star a mere dot. Very scarce.

Some 150 are on large (8" x 12") cards reading "First Prize Winner among 390 Competing Artists in the National Competition for a New Five Cent Coin, April 20, 1938. Felix Schlag, Sculptor" with Schlag's autograph, a serial number, a notarized statement about the number so issued, and a drawing of the original reverse (far better artistically than the version adopted). During the middle and late 1960's these historically desirable cards sold between $150 and $250 apiece after a Chicago dealer's hoard (possibly 2/3 of the original issue) was dispersed.

Dime. [8728] Similar to the 1937 issue.

Quarter. [8045] New hub, profile sharper. Similar to the 1937 issue.

Half Dollar. [8152] Fourth hub, a reversion to the 1918-36 type but with more incised detail at drapery at outstretched arm below stars; two nearly vertical rays touch flag. Similar to the 1937 issue in finish.

Proof sets. Not over 8045 could have been issued, probably fewer. Much speculated in, like the 1937's.

1938 New Rochelle

Commemoratives. New Rochelle Half Dollar. Arlie Slabaugh reports "matte" proofs. Hydeman:694, apparently ex 1958 ANA: 1707, was described as a proof, supposedly brilliant, with a document certifying that this was the 8th coin struck, presented to William S. Dewey, then President of the Westchester County Coin Club. I did not see the coin. Dewey was certainly a well known collector in that club, but he was not in any way connected, to my knowledge, with the New Rochelle celebration committees; he is not mentioned in Amy Skipton's "you were there" chronicle One Fatt Calfe, nor indeed are any of the coin club people, nor is there any allusion to special presentation of the coins. Therefore, if any such presentation was made, it presumably took place somewhere else than New Rochelle -e.g. the Philadelphia Mint? A "matte" proof ex Sinnock estate was in 1962 ANA:2056. I have seen one other, satin finish.

Brilliant Proofs Make a Comeback, 1936-1964
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