For those who lack the patience and pocketbook to assemble an entire collection of silver commemorative coins of 1892 to 1954, a type set with conjoined busts might be an achievable option.
As the term suggests, conjoined busts are adjacent images of two people. The technical term is “jugate,” as in “two heads, jugate right” or “left,” meaning facing to the right or left.
Such images have appeared on coins since ancient times, as in the third century B.C. gold octadrachm featuring right-facing profiles of co-rulers of Ptolemaic Egypt — Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his sister-wife Arsinoe II.
Conjoined busts of 17th century co-monarchs William and Mary appear on several denominations of English coins, from penny and twopence to half crown and crown.
No regular U.S. coin features conjoined busts, but 10 commemorative coins do:
➤ 1900 Lafayette Memorial silver dollar, with Washington and Lafayette, jugate right.
➤ 1921 Alabama Centennial half dollar, with Governors William Bibb and Thomas Kilby, jugate left.
➤ 1923-S Monroe Doctrine Centennial half dollar, with President James Monroe and his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, jugate left.
➤ 1924 Huguenot-Walloon half dollar, with Adm. Gaspard de Coligny and William the Silent, jugate right.
➤ 1926 American Independence Sesquicentennial half dollar, with Presidents George Washington and Calvin Coolidge, jugate right.
➤ 1935 to 1939 Arkansas Centennial half dollar, with profiles of a Quapaw Indian and a Liberty figure, jugate left.
➤ 1936 Long Island Tercentenary half dollar, with profiles of a Dutch colonist and an Algonquin native, jugate right.
➤ 1936 Battle of Gettysburg half dollar, with Union and Confederate veterans, jugate right.
➤ 1937 Antietam half dollar, with portraits of Gens. George McClellan and Robert E. Lee, jugate left.
➤ 1951 to 1954 Washington and Carver half dollar, with George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, jugate right.
Assembling such a set can be pricey because of three coins — the Lafayette dollar and the Gettysburg and Antietam half dollars.
Coin World’s Coin Values lists $500 for a Lafayette dollar at Extremely Fine 40 and $1,000 for one at Mint State 60. Double that for one at MS-63. A Gettysburg half dollar at EF-40 might cost about $380, with low Mint State examples between $450 and $500. An Antietam half dollar is dearer, with $600 for one at EF-40; $725 for MS-60; and $775 for MS-63. The 1921 Alabama Centennial half dollar might run $350 to $550 in low Mint State.
Other conjoined-bust commems are reasonably and even cheaply priced, including the 1923-S Monroe, 1924 Huguenot, 1926 Sesquicentennial, 1935 to 1939 Arkansas Centennial, 1936 Long Island Tercentenary, and 1951 to 1954 Washington and Carver half dollars.
A Mint State Washington and Carver coin can be found for $25 or less. Price aside, it has special meaning for me, as George Washington Carver was the first African-American student and later, professor, at my university, Iowa State.
What’s so special about a conjoined bust collection?
Viewed apart from the others, each one tends to look similar, as the portraits require much of the field. However, were I to fashion a special type of holder for such a collection, I would place the Lafayette dollar in the middle as showcase. After all, it is the second U.S. silver commemorative and first with conjoined bust.
Then I would position the others — all half dollars — like a constellation around the larger coin.
Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor at Iowa State University and also serves as president and Webmaster of the Ames, Iowa, Coin Club. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.