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Wright Family Texas Commemoratives

Category: Commemoratives
Set Type: Texas Half Dollars, 1934-1938
Owner: Revenant
Last Modified: 12/28/2019
Views: 1104
Filter Rankings: All Coins |  NGC Coins

Rank: 23
Score: 6640
Leading by: 83
Points to Higher Rank: 1498
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Set Description:

This set owes its origins to two facts. The first is the fact that my step-father is a 5th generation Texan, and, therefore, felt an affinity for these coins when he learned about them. He traces his family tree through his father, back to Ashbel Smith. The second lies in the the 1932 set he and I also built together. We were buying the 1932-S quarter and we needed to up the dollar amount of our purchase in order to avoid paying sales tax on the deal (exceed a certain value and the purchase became exempt) so we purchased the first coin for this set. While that wasn’t necessarily the intent at the time this did end up becoming a full 13 coin set of MS65 and MS66 graded examples. An article authored by Q David Bowers indicates that MS63 is considered typical for the series. The set is split almost down the middle between NGC and PCGS graded coins and I think it’s also one of the few times we purchased coins purely based on grade and eye appeal without any concern or preference or the name of the company on the label.

One of the more interesting things about this series is that they are commemoratives of Texas gaining its independence from Mexico in 1936. They are not commemoratives of the statehood of Texas, which did not occur until 1845, 9 years later, with the annexation of Texas into the United States. There are other coins and even series of coins that were created to commemorate statehood centennials, but this is a little different. Texas was the only state that was an independent country, having won it’s independence through war, like the United States did, and which then joined the United States voluntarily by treaty. The annexation of Hawaii was more of a hostile take-over and Hawaii did not join the union as a state like Texas did.

The coin’s design places somewhat heavy emphasis on the Alamo, with the Battle of the Alamo also occurring in 1836.

The other thing that I always found odd / interesting about this set was that, unlike what you’d expect to see today, it wasn’t a single coin issued in 1936. These were made for 5 years – starting 2 years before the centennial and continuing mintage for 2 years after the centennial – and in 4 of those 5 years the coins were produced at all 3 mints – Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.

The coins came about because of a 1933 law that authorized the coinage of silver half dollars “"in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary in 1936 of the independence of Texas, and of the noble and heroic sacrifices of her pioneers, whose revered memory has been an inspiration to her sons and daughters during the past century." The law passed early in the FDR administration and would become the first of over two dozen commemorative bills passed during FDR’s presidency. The law allowed for up to 1.5 million to be made for the American Legion’s Texas Centennial Committee, with the intent that the money help fund the creation of a Museum at the University of Texas in Austin.

In his March 1936 testimony before Congress, Robert M Jackson said that the American Legion of Texas and the Board of Regents of the University of Texas had hoped to “sell one to every family in Texas as a souvenir of the Texas Centennial.” I’m not sure how many families were in Texas at the time but the population of the state according to the 1930 census was about 5.8 Million (The 5th most populace state at the time). The law authorized a mintage of up to 1.5 Million. So that goal probably wasn’t impossible or out of the question, but they seemingly found it difficult to sell commemorative coins in the midst of the great depression. Large numbers of the coins were melted down because of lack of demand. Ultimately, between the 13 issues, only 304,000 were produced for distribution (a few extras were made for assays). After the melting pot had its fun (154,522 were returned to the Treasury for melting), the final issuance was only 149,478. Most of that loss due to melting occurred in 1934 – 205,000 were produced, and 143,650 were melted because weak sales left the Centennial committee unable to pay for them. The 205,000 originally minted in 1934 exceeds the entire final issuance of the series / design and the final issuance is a hair less than one tenth of the amount originally authorized by Congress.

I was very surprised to learn that the distribution of the coin was handled mostly through banks, with the coins available through 314 banks, mostly inside but also outside of the state of Texas. In modern times, commemoratives are ordered directly from the US Mint. This can be done over the phone but I think it increasingly is handled online in the internet age of the 21st Century. The idea of going to a bank to buy a commemorative issue seems so strange to me. But there was no internet in those days. I don’t know how common phones were back then, but I imagine they weren’t common. I suppose mail order would have been an option, but they probably would have found that difficult given that they had no advertising budget for the program initially save for what the American Legion put up themselves – a fact that they bemoaned as sales disappointed early on.

“All new states are invested, more or less, by a class of noisy, second-rate men who are always in favor of rash and extreme measures, but Texas was absolutely overrun by such men.” - Sam Houston

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