US Coins

MS-68 1938 New Rochelle half dollar not often seen

After an avalanche of commemorative issues in the 1930s, the 1938 half dollar celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of New Rochelle, New York, was the only new design issued that year.

Gertrude K. Lathrop’s obverse shows John Pell with the fatted calf he received annually for the land and the reverse depicts an elegant fleur-de-lis, adapted from the seal of the city.

Museum curator Cornelius Vermeule called it “a simple, bold, and absolutely tasteless coin,” concluding that the designer had been introduced as an artist more at home with animals than humans.

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Most of the original mintage of 15,266 survivors remain in higher Mint State grades and even ones graded MS-66 or MS-67 are frequently seen. The population thins in MS-68, but Heritage Auctions offered one in this grade certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. — one of twenty like-graded coins at NGC — at a December auction. 

The cataloger wrote, “Lavender-toned centers merge with accents of blue, gold, and russet around the border areas,” adding, “Lively luster percolates through the layers of color.” It sold for $3,600. 

Stack’s Bowers Galleries offered a different example in 2017, graded MS-68 by Professional Coin Grading Service, with thick, satiny luster and delicate toning with richer jewel tones at the edges. It was one of five like graded examples at PCGS with one finer at MS-68+, but it failed to meet its reserve of $12,000 and went unsold.

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