Commemorative Coins of the United States
Q. David Bowers
It developed that 29,600 of the "plain" style were melted, resulting in a net mintage of 15,400 (using the Swiatek-Breen figures) or 10,400 (if the Bullowa figures are used). To suggest that only 5,000 were made of the 24 and that 15,428 of the "plain" were made strains credulity, for in practice both varieties are approximately equal in rarity today, a situation borne out by catalogue values and also by statistics kept by commercial grading services. Writing in the Numismatic Scrapbook, August 1936, Lee F. Hewitt asked this question:
"Will someone kindly explain why the Missouri without the 2X2 [sic; 24 was intended] has always sold higher than the 2X2 variety when more pieces were minted?"
In addition to specimens sold in Missouri, both varieties of the Centennial half dollars were marketed to collectors by advertisements in The Numismatist and elsewhere. It was felt that anyone who bought a "plain" piece would not feel his collection was complete unless he also bought the 24 variety. While probably a few thousand of each variety were purchased by coin collectors and dealers, there was little widespread interest in them within the numismatic fraternity.
Interestingly, early advertisements depicted not a frontiersman and Indian on the reverse but a motif from an unadopted sketch showing the arms of the state of Missouri. The notations LIBERTY, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and IN GOD WE TRUST were not present on the Missouri half dollars, the first instance of omission of all three mottos on a commemorative half dollar since the Columbian coins of 1892 and 1893. These mottos were also absent on the 1893 Isabella quarter and 1900 Lafayette dollar, nor did they appear on any of the commemorative gold dollars.
Collecting Missouri Half Dollars
The typical Missouri half dollar encountered is apt to be in a grade from AU-50 to MS-60, usually with friction and contact marks on the higher areas of the design. Most are lightly struck at the center of the portrait of Boone on the obverse and at the torsos of the two figures on the reverse. Apparently, little care was taken at the Mint during the striking of the pieces, a situation which was duplicated in the same year by the sloppy striking and handling of the 1921-dated Alabama half dollars.
High level Mint State Missouri Centennial half dollars are indeed rare, and, even among those offered in the marketplace with high numerical designations, relatively few are sharply struck, lustrous, and attractive. As noted earlier it is believed that despite advertising to numismatists, very few were sold to this audience, with the result that not many were carefully preserved. Anthony Swiatek and Walter Breen suggest that perhaps no more than 400 Mint State examples exist today of either variety. Of this small number, precious few could be designated as high as MS-65.
GRADING SUMMARY: Most examples show signs of friction on Daniel Boone's cheek on the obverse and on the high points of the figures on the reverse. Sometimes there are also areas of light striking in these places, in which instances there will be graininess from the original planchet surface. Missouri half dollars are difficult to find in a combination of high grade and excellent aesthetic quality.
1921 Missouri Centennial, without 24 ("plain") Half Dollar
SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS
Commemorating: Centennial of the admission of Missouri into the Union, 1821-1921
Obverse motif: Portrait of Daniel Boone
Reverse motif: Standing figures of Boone and Indian
Authorization date: March 4, 1921
Dates on coins: 1921 (also 1821)
Date when coins were actually minted: 1921
Mint used: Philadelphia Mint
Maximum quantity authorized: 250,000 (combined for both types)
Total quantity minted (including assay coins): 40,028 in July 1921
Assay coins (included in above): 28
Quantity melted: 29,600 (believed to be of the "plain" type, but no specific records were
Net number distributed (including assay coins): 10,428 (certain other texts give different figures)
Issued by: Missouri Centennial Committee through the Sedalia (Missouri) Trust Company
Standard original packaging: Apparently, none
Official sale price: $1
Designer of obverse and reverse: Robert I. Aitken
Interesting facts: Most of these went to the general public rather than to collectors; the frontiersman on the obverse and reverse is Daniel Boone, an instance of the same person being depicted twice on the same coin (as also, for example, Lafayette on the 1900 Lafayette dollar, Boone on the 1934-1938 Boone Bicentennial half dollars, the pioneer on the 1936 Elgin half dollar, and Dwight Eisenhower on the 1990 Eisenhower Centennial dollar).
(average market prices)
1925 MS-60 $1.50
1930 MS-60 $5
1935 MS-60 $10
1936 (summer) MS-60 $28
1940 MS-60 $13
1945 MS-60 $23
1950 MS-60 $30
1955 MS-60 $52
1960 MS-60 $80
1965 MS-60 $145
1970 MS-60 $150
1975 MS-60 $550
1980 MS-60 $2,400
1985 MS-60 $900
1986 MS-60 $500, MS-63 $1,000, MS-64 $2,300, MS-65 $4,250
1990 (spring) MS-60 $400, MS-63 $980, MS-64 $2,450, MS-65 $13,000
1990 (December) MS-60 $255, MS-63 $770, MS-64 $2,100, MS-65 $8,250
Notes: The average specimen advertised as "Brilliant Uncirculated" during the period from about the 19305 through the mid-1980s was in a grade which today we would designate as AU-58 to MS-60. MS-63 coins were and still are rare.
Population reports issued by PCGS and data from sale records suggest that the net distribution figures given here for the Missouri "plain" and "24" issues, about 10,000 of each, is more nearly correct than the usually published figures of 15,428 "plain" and only 5,000 "24," for in the marketplace approximately equal numbers of each variety are seen.