US Coins

MS-67 Old Spanish Trail half at $13,250

The 1935 Old Spanish Trail half dollar has a spare design that can be called elegant, boring, or both depending on one’s view. 

Ten thousand half dollars were issued by the El Paso Museum Coin Committee to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the expedition of Cabeza de Vaca and the opening of the Old Spanish Trail. 

The obverse depicts the head of a cow, in absence of any known portraits of 16th century explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and because his name translates to “head of a cow.”

The reverse depicts a yucca tree in bloom on a map of the assumed route that he took on the Old Spanish Trail. Expert Anthony Swiatek notes that the route as shown on the coin is inconsistent with the historical record, writing, “He did not travel overland, but sailed along the Gulf Coast.” 

The issue was well-produced, examples were carefully saved, and most survive in high grades today. The broad obverse and reverse fields are unforgiving to contact marks and top graded examples can be expensive, like the $13,250.25 that one graded PCGS MS-67 in an old PCGS holder with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker brought at a March 31 GreatCollections online auction.

The price approached the $24,000 that another one graded PCGS MS-68 with a green CAC sticker realized at Heritage’s 2019 Florida United Numismatists auction and was multiples more than the price another PCGS MS-67 example with a green CAC sticker sold for at the same Heritage auction.

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