Coin Specifications

Category: Silver Commemoratives (1892-1954)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 10,009
Obverse Designer: L. W. Hoffecker & Edmund J. Senn
Reverse Designer: L. W. Hoffecker & Edmund J. Senn
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $6.24 (10/16/2017)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1935 SPANISH TRAIL 50C MS obverse 1935 SPANISH TRAIL 50C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

The Spanish Trail Memorial half dollar was simply another money-making scheme by L. W. Hoffecker, a Texas coin dealer and future ANA president. After a commemorative coin he tried to have made honoring the Gadsden Purchase was vetoed by the President, Hoffecker set out on a search for another event to commemorate. In his position as Chairman of the El Paso Museum Committee, he found the event he was looking for. Rewriting history to suit his own ends, Hoffecker claimed that El Paso was the end of the Old Spanish Trail traveled by early explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and the remnants of an 1527 Spanish expedition. This was not really the case, but apparently that didn’t bother Congress, as a bill was passed on June 5th, 1935 authorizing a maximum of 10,000 half dollars commemorating the trail.

Hoffecker, in addition to inventing the need for the coin, also had a specific design in mind for it. He hired local El Paso sculptor Edmund J. Senn to execute his plans. Hoffecker was clearly no artist, and his designs are one of the most widely criticized of any commemorative coin. The obverse displays a cow’s head as the central device, apparently a metaphor for Cabeza de Vaca, which translates in Spanish to “head of a cow.” Directly above the cow’s head on the coin’s obverse is the legend LIBERTY and above that, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Below is the explorer's name ALVAR NUNEZ CABEZA DE VACA. Encircling the rim are the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR.

The reverse displays a map of the southern United States from Florida through Texas with the fictionalized Spanish Trail marked off across five states, ending at EL PASO. Continuing his disregard for historical accuracy, Hoffecker designated stops along the trail at cities that did not exist in the early 16th century. Superimposed on the map is a blooming yucca tree, a common plant in the desert regions of the southwestern United States. At the bottom of the reverse are the two dates 1535 and 1935. The legend OLD•SPANISH•TRAIL appears at the top border and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST is to the right of the yucca tree.

The full authorized mintage of 10,000 coins was struck in September of 1935 at the Philadelphia Mint. They were distributed by the El Paso Museum Committee for $2 each, a hefty sum at the time for a coin with a face value of 50 cents. There was definitely some favoritism involved in the sale of the coins, but they still ended up being distributed widely, mostly to collectors.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 11/30/2016

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Total Graded: 1843
Low Grade: 45
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 68

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
5/27/2007 PCGS MS 65   Goldberg May 27-30, 2007 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 41/Lot# 1279 $1,610.00
12/6/2007 NGC MS 66   David Lawrence Rare Coins Thursday - Internet Auction # 201, 207/Lot# 6147 $2,415.00
6/27/2008 PCGS MS 67   Teletrade Auction 2549, 2549/Lot# 1027 $3,248.00
1/31/2010 PCGS MS 66   Goldberg January 31 - February 3, 2010 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 57/Lot# 1600 $1,840.00
7/17/2011 NGC MS 65   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 07/17/2011, 127/Lot# 11934 $1,760.00
9/2/2012 PCGS MS 66   Bonhams Coins and Medals, 20038/Lot# 1266 $1,404.00
2/6/2015 PCGS MS 65   Stack's Bowers 2015 Americana Auction, 6070/Lot# 2148 $998.75
7/17/2015 NGC MS 66   Stack's Bowers July 2015 Baltimore Auction, 6105/Lot# 6235 $1,116.25
8/2/2017 NGC MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2017 August 2 - 6 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Denver Session(6), 1258/Lot# 8397 $998.75

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1935 50C MS SPANISH TRAIL
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 68
Points: 7859
Owner: J & L
Grade: MS 67
Points: 3281
Owner: Bruce Young
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