The Silver commemorative series is very popular and highly sought by collectors. These coins were given out because of special moments in US history. The series, including 50 different designs were produced between 1892-1954. A complete date/mintmark set includes 144 coins, with no real rarities. This set has 1 quarter, 142 halves and 1 dollar.
What most people don't know, is that there were also some patterns made for silver commemoratives. Most of these are test impressions in an other metal (off metal strikes) or lacking the S Mint Mark (San Fransisco). Also there are some planchets known with notes that it was the first strike of a new die.
COMMEMORATIVES LACKING THE S MINTMARK
The first of these are the half dollars, gold dollars and fifty dollars from the 1915 Panama-Pacific commemorative coins. The coins were given out because of the
Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco that year. In this article, I will only discuss the half dollar. The other ones will follow in another article.
The half dollar is known in 3 different metals. Judd-1960 is struck in Gold, and in the newest Judd book it has a rarity rating of 8, with a pop of 1. Totally there are two known. Both coins known are filed and struck over a cut-down double eagle. The #1 specimen (Farouk; Norweb) was last sold in Stack's 6/1991 sale, where it sold for $46,750. The #2 specimen (Virgil Brand; B.G. Johnson;
Celina Coin Co.; A. Friedman;) was last sold in the 11/2003 Heritage bullet sale. It is graded by NGC as PF-64, and it realized an amazing $165,000.
The silver version (Judd-1961) has less than 4 specimens known, with a pop of 2. One of these sold also in the 11/2003 Heritage Bullet sale. It is graded PF-64
by NGC, and it sold for $92,000. In my opinion, it is toned very nicely with deeper Golden-Brown and Blue toning around margins. The center is white.
The copper version (Judd-1962) also has less than 4 specimens known, with again a pop of 2. One is graded PCGS PF-63BN, and sold for $15,400 in the 8/1996
Heritage sale. The other one is graded NGC PF-65RB. This coin sold for $63,250.00, again in the 11/2003 Heritage Bullet sale.
Second in the "pattern-series" is the Lincoln-Illinois commemorative half dollar. These are all R8, and none has come to the market lately. The Judd book notes: "The various known pieces show incomplete details of the dies,
as the dies were too widely spaced apart. Struck without a collar."
Judd-2005 is struck in copper, with two examples known. The Judd book shows a pop of 1. Last sale was in the Bowers and merena 7/2002 sale where one was grade PCGS63 and sold for $43,700.
Judd-2006 is struck in nickel, and believed to be unique.
Judd-2007 is struck in white metal, and also believed to be unique, with no sales. An example is listed by Taxay as ex Nagy.
The only other piece lacking the S mintmark is the 1925 California Diamond Jubilee commermorative half dollar (J-2035). It has been reported, but nobody can confirm this to date.
REGULAR DIES TRAIL PIECES
These are all unique or unconfirmed. Here follows a listing, but it's unknown if this is complete:
J-2030: 1925 Monroe Doctrine Centennial commemorative half dollar. A piece struck in copper has been reported, but no one can confirm this. It's unknown if this piece has a S mintmark.
J-2040: 1935 Boone Bicentennial commemorative half dollar, small "1934" on reverse. This piece is unconfirmed and might be an error in listings.
J-2041: 1935-S Boone Bicentennial commemorative half dollar, small "1934" on reverse. The only real known example of a commemorative half dollar die trail. The Judd book describes this piece has the following: 'Regular
dies. An unusual example of a branch mint die pair being used for a die trail.' It's struck in copper with a reeded edge, altough the Pollock book states that it has a plain edge. This piece has a beautiful brown color. The only photo I could find is on the uspatterns.com website.
DIE AND HUB TRAILS AND PAPERBACKED SPLASHERS
These are listed in Appendix A of the newest Judd book. There hasn't been a lot of research done for these pieces, so there is not a lot known.
J-A1893-1: This is an impression of the obverse from the Isabella quarter for the World's Columbian Exposition. It is struck in yellow-brown cardboard, and has on the back the following notes:
Columbian Exposition. Isabella $ 1/4 1893 This is the first impression from the die. Received from O.C.
Bosbyshell. Sup't of the U.S. Mint, Philadelphia.
These notes are probably from mint director Edward O. Leech.
J-A1893-2: This is an impression of the reverse of the Isabella quarter. It has the same notes on the back as J-A1893-1.
J-A1920-1: Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar. This is an impression of the reverse die in a bigger round piece of lead. This piece was discovered in the estate of one of George Morgan's children. It was offered in Craig A. Whitford Numismatic Auctions' 5/02 sale. I'm not sure if it was sold.
J-A1922-1: Grant Memorial half dollar. An obverse hub trail of the Grant Memorial commemorative half dollar, variety with star in field. Struck in copper. This piece is Ex R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1922-2: Grant Memorial half dollar. Obverse of the Grant Memorial commemorative half dollar, variety with star in file. This piece is Silver or Silver plated copper and is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society.
J-A1922-3: Grant Memorial half dollar. Obverse as above, but struck in copper. Existence unconfirmed.
J-A1922-4: Grant Memorial half dollar. Obverse as above, but struck in Brass. Ex 1958 ANA sale, R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1922-5: Grant Memorial half dollar. Obverse as above, but struck in Nickel. Ex James Earle Fraser, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries 5/1973, 1996 ANA sale.
J-A1922-6: Grant Memorial half dollar. Reverse of the Grant Memorial commemorative half dollar. This piece is Silver or Silver plated copper and is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society.
J-A1922-7: Grant Memorial half dollar. Reverse as above, but struck in Nickel. Ex James Earle Fraser, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries 5/1973, 1996 ANA sale.
J-A1923-1: Monroe Doctrine Centennial half dollar. Reverse of the Monroe Doctrine Centennial commemorative half dollar. Struck in Copper. Ex R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1924-1: Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary half dollar. Reverse of the Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary commemorative. Struck in Brass. Ex Stephen K. Nagy, Stack's, now in the Smithsonian Institution.
J-A1925-1: California Diamond Jubilee half dollar. Obverse of the California Diamond Jubilee commemorative. Struck in lead. Ex 1958 ANA sale, R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1926-1: Sesquicentennial half dollar. Obverse of the Sesquicentennial of American Independence commemorative. Struck in Copper. Ex R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1926-2: Sesquicentennial half dollar. Reverse of the Sesquicentennial of American Independence commemorative. Struck in Copper. Ex R.E. Cox, Jr.
J-A1935-1: Arkansas Centennial half dollar. Reverse of the Arkansas Centennial commemorative with incuse "S" mintmark. Struck in copper. Ex Empire Coin, Co., R.E. Cox, Jr. It's now in the Bowers and Merena commemorative
J-A1935-2: Hudson Sesquicentennial half dollar. Obverse hub trail of Hudson, New York, commemorative. Stuck in copper. There were 3 examples in the R.E. Cox, Jr.
Sale. Last appearance of one of these was 4/2004 Coin Galleries sale.
J-A1935-3: San Diego half dollar. Reverse of the San Diego, California Pacific Exposition commemorative. Struck in copper. Ex R.E. Cox, Jr.
As you can see, all these "coins" are ultra-rare. There might be some pieces somewhere, but the chance that you find one is very small. The biggest chance might be a commemorative lacking the S mintmark. When these get sold,
they will bring for sure a very huge premium over a normal commemorative.
-United States Pattern coins Experimental and Trail pieces. J. Hewitt Judd, M.D.
Eighth edition 2003
Dennis Hengeveld, 2004