Coin Specifications

Category: Silver Commemoratives (1892-1954)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 47,925
Catalog: KM-159
Obverse Designer: Laura Gardin Fraser
Reverse Designer: James Earle Fraser
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $5.35 (9/4/2015)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1926 OREGON TRAIL 50C MS obverse 1926 OREGON TRAIL 50C MS reverse


  
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VarietyPlus®

There are no NGC varieties for this coin.

Description & Analysis

In 1926, a New York corporation calling itself the Oregon Trail Memorial Association petitioned Congress to authorize a half dollar to commemorate those who had traveled west on the trail during the mid 1800’s. Pioneer Ezra Meeker (who himself made the journey on the trail in 1851) was the president of the association and claimed he wanted to use the funds raised by the program to erect a series of monuments along the route. Congress agreed that the trail was of national significance, and authorized the coining of no more than six million coins on May 17th, 1926.

The design was completed by the famed husband and wife team of James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser. Mrs. Fraser had designed several commemorative coins, notably the 1922 Grant half dollar and dollar, and her husband, who is credited with the obverse design of the Oregon Trail half, is remembered for creating one of the most memorable of all coin designs, the Buffalo nickel. The obverse (actually considered the reverse by the Frasers and most collectors) depicts a Conestoga wagon drawn by oxen heading into a setting sun. IN GOD WE TRUST arcs above the wagon, and below are ORGEON TRAIL MEMORIAL and the date. The reverse depicts a strikingly rendered Indian with bow in hand, standing with an outstretched arm in front of a map of the country. Around the Indian is the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR is found below.

The Commission of Fine Arts enthusiastically approved the design, and immediately sent the models off to the Medallic Art Company of New York for hubbing. In September of 1926, the first 48,000 coins of the design were struck. The coins originally sold for $1 each, and became an instant hit with the public. So much so that another issue was then struck in San Francisco to the tune of 100,000 pieces. Unfortunately for the Association, enthusiasm quickly waned and few of those coins sold at the issue price. The Treasury was aware of the unsold coins and ordered the Mint not to strike any more coins until all 100,000 were distributed. However, the Commission had surprising political clout and put pressure on the Treasury, which led to the minting of an additional 50,000 coins in 1928. Yet these were destined to sit in their vaults for five years. Finally, in 1933 the 17,000 remaining 1926-S coins were melted to pave the way for the release of the 1928-dated coins.

Back-room politics have figured in many a decision at the Mint over the years, but the Oregon Trail commemorative program became the biggest abuser in the system. Once again, the Association was authorized to strike yet another issue, this one bearing the date 1933 and struck at the Denver Mint. The plan was to offer the mintage of 5,250 coins to visitors at the Century of Progress Exposition, at a cost of $2 each. These became an instant disaster and were sold mostly to speculators by the Scott Stamp and Coin Company of New York. The Scott Company was also charged with liquidating the 1928 issues, but managed to sell only 6,000 coins. Ultimately, 44,000 of the 1928 coins went into the melting pot.

1934 saw the Denver Mint strike an additional 7,000 coins. This pattern was repeated in 1936 in Philadelphia (10,000) and San Francisco (5,000), again in 1937 in Denver (12,000), and finally with a three-piece set containing one coin from each of the three mints in 1938 (6,000) and 1939 (3,000). When the last Oregon Trail half was struck in 1939, its on-and-off, fourteen-year run had witnessed a total of only 264,419 coins minted, of which 61,317 were eventually melted, leaving a net mintage of just 202,928 pieces—less than 4% of the number originally authorized. The 1926 issues are by far the most common, while the 1939 issues are the most desirable, with mintages of only 3,000 from each mint.

GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 7/24/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1926 OREGON TRAIL 50C MS
  GVGFVFXF5053555861626364656667686970
Base $ - - 73.00 95.00 120 128 130 135 140 160 165 175 200 290 475 1550 - - -
$ - - - - - - - 185 220 315 550 3775 -

The World Coin Price Guide is independently compiled by Krause Publications’ NumisMaster. NGC makes this information available to its website visitors as a free service, but in no way does the information provided represent NGC’s official opinion or policy. For example, varieties listed in the World Coin Price Guide may not necessarily be recognized by NGC. Please contact NGC Customer Service with any questions.

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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 2130
Low Grade: G
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 68


Upcoming Auctions


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
10/11/2000 NGC MS 65   Heritage Auctions Exclusively Internet Auction #20103, 20103/Lot# 3522 $135.00
9/6/2004 PCGS MS 65   Goldberg September 6-7, 2004 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 26/Lot# 1279 $230.00
8/29/2005 NGC MS 67   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet-Only Auction #51, 56/Lot# 1642 $1,552.50
1/22/2007 PCGS MS 66   Teletrade Auction 2317, 2317/Lot# 1439 $380.80
2/17/2013 PCGS MS 63   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 02/17/2013, 62/Lot# 96183 $143.00
7/27/2013 PCGS MS 65   Stack's Bowers The August 2013 Chicago ANA World's Fair of Money , 192/Lot# 31380 $358.38
5/3/2015 NGC MS 66   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131519/Lot# 21516 $246.75
  PCGS MS 65   Bonhams $198.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1926 OREGON TRAIL 50C MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base212234258282351423437445450463477502527539563620802110321613583776513854
21924226630537542844044745446848551053154758268190214562635497797950
00000044044745446848551053154758268190214562635497700
000000442448459472494519535555601741100318083109637100
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 67
Points: 2161
Owner: Bruce Young
 
Grade: MS 67
Points: 2161
Owner: Searcher
 
View the Registry Image Gallery

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