Coin Specifications

Category: Silver Commemoratives (1892-1954)
Mint: Denver
Mintage: 30,000
Obverse Designer: Robert Aitken
Reverse Designer: Robert Aitken
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $6.53 (7/13/2020)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1936 D SAN DIEGO 50C MS obverse 1936 D SAN DIEGO 50C MS reverse
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Description & Analysis

The California-Pacific Exposition half dollar, more popularly known as the San Diego half dollar, was issued in 1935 and 1936 to celebrate the city’s exposition during those years. The sole purpose of the coin was to help raise money for the fair, and its sponsors went to great lengths to try to maximize the profits from the coins’ sales. Legislation was passed on May 3, 1935 authorizing the mintage of not more than 250,000 pieces. No specifics were given in the bill as to what date or mint mark would appear on the coin. This oversight was used to full advantage by Exposition treasurer Emil Klicka when sales fell short in 1935. Unfortunately for the issuing committee, the maximum mintage of the coin was never realized as many ended up in the mint’s smelters (330,000 of them in fact, which was 80,000 more than the authorized mintage!)

Accomplished and well-respected sculptor Robert Aitken, creator of both the Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar pieces and the Missouri Centennial Half, was selected to design and sculpt the coin. He clearly earned his reputation, as his original designs were wholeheartedly accepted by the Commission of Fine Arts, with the only change being the addition of the word LIBERTY. Today, the coin he designed is considered one of the most beautiful of the classic commemorative series. The obverse depicts the Roman goddess Minerva seated next to a grizzly bear and a shield emblazoned with the motto EUREKA. A tiny pickaxe-wielding minor as well as a square-rigged ship, both of which are adapted from the California state seal, can be found to the left. Arranged in an arc above this tableau is the legend •UNITED•STATES•OF•AMERICA• and below it is the value HALF•DOLLAR. Between Minerva’s base and the value is the motto LIBERTY. The reverse of the coin is dominated by two of the California Buildings at the exposition: the Chapel of St. Francis (with dome) and the California Tower. To the right is the date, and to the left is the name SAN DIEGO. Outside this border, arranged in a peripheral arc, is •CALIFORNIA•PACIFIC•INTERNATIONAL•EXPOSITION.

The progress of this issue was rapid, and only a month after approval of the design, 250,000 pieces were struck at the San Francisco Mint in August of 1935. By the 12th of that month, the coins were on sale at the exposition. While a decent number of coins were purchased by fair-goers, the committee expected the coins to be purchased in greater numbers by the coin collecting community. It soon became evident that sales would total in the tens, rather than hundreds, of thousands. Therefore, the committee went back to Congress, which authorized the melting and re-issue of 180,000 of the coins. These new, 1936-dated coins were struck at Denver. Klicka tried to raise the price from $1 to $1.50 to illicit more demand, but it was not to be. In the end, 150,000 of the newly struck Denver coins were also melted, leaving a total net mintage of 70,000 for the 1935-S and 30,000 for the 1936-D.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 1/3/2020

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Total Graded: 2819
Low Grade: 55
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 68

The chart showing 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series, 67 series, 68 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 7/7/2020 1936 D 50C SAN DIEGO MS

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1936 D 50C SAN DIEGO MS
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Grade: MS 68
Points: 5836
Owner: J & L
Grade: MS 67
Points: 2495
Owner: Blaster
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