US Coins

1893 commemorative coin found in roll 122 years after issue

Walking Liberty, Franklin and Kennedy 90 percent silver half dollars sometimes show up in rolls. An 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar is different altogether.

Images courtesy of Bill O'Rourke.

Visiting my local bank is always a great experience. While I understand that it is difficult for some of you to obtain rolls of half dollars, I can usually get them without any trouble at all.

In fact, the vault teller at my bank always asks me if I want to order halves from their coin supplier (Brinks) and I almost always respond yes. The result is that at least once per month, I have a box filled with $500 worth of machine-wrapped rolls to search.

It is important to note that I have always been up front about my intentions and that the bank knows that I am a hobbyist that likes to look through half dollars.

I maintain several accounts with this particular bank, which is likely why I do not get charged any fees to obtain the coins.

Discovered as I looked through the 50 rolls contained in the box were three silver-copper clad Kennedy halves. The coins were dated 1966, 1967 and 1968-D (Denver Mint). While it is certainly true that I find silver coins like these less often than I did five or even 10 years ago, 40 percent silver half dollars still turn up fairly regularly in my searches. 

Becoming tougher to find in rolls are any 90 percent silver half dollars, yet I still add a good number of them to my collection. When they do turn up though, they most often are 1964 or 1964-D Kennedy half dollars. Occasionally older Franklin and Walking Liberty half dollars are still found. 

Almost never do I find a coin like the one discovered this month.

The Bureau of the Mint in 1892 and 1893 issued the World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar to mark the quadricentennial of the first voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus. 

Considered to be the first United States commemorative coin, it is also the first U.S. coin to depict a historical person.

The coin was also issued as a way to raise funds for the exposition, but the results of the fundraising were much less than spectacular. 

About 5 million coins were minted with the intent that they be sold at a premium.

As it turned out, about 400,000 of the coins were actually sold at $1 each, about half of the original number of pieces were melted, and the remaining coins ended up being released into circulation.

I still remember getting a few of these coins in change during the early 1960s when I was a young numismatist in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As neat as this coin is, About Uncirculated examples can be found for between $15 and $20.

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