Coin Specifications

Category: Silver Commemoratives (1892-1954)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 2,100
Obverse Designer: Edward Everett Burr and Emily Bates
Reverse Designer: Edward Everett Burr and Emily Bates
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $6.18 (10/22/2017)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1939 S ARKANSAS 50C MS obverse 1939 S ARKANSAS 50C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

The Arkansas half dollar is a good example of a worthy project discredited through greed and poor management. It follows in the footsteps of other commemorative issues of the time with multiple date and mint-mark combinations that infuriated collectors of the day.
The story of this coin all began with the grand plans for marking the state of Arkansas’ 100th anniversary in 1936 in the state capitol of Kansas City. Noting the success of other states in funding such events through the sale of commemorative coins, a similar plan was devised by a state-appointed group calling itself the Arkansas Centennial Commission.

This commission got right to work, and a bill was quickly passed on May 14th, 1934, authorizing the coinage of up to 500,000 half dollars honoring the centennial of the state. The language of the Arkansas bill conveniently omitted any reference to a place or date of coinage, yet it specified that the coins were to be delivered only to the Commission or its designated agent “at such times as they shall be requested.” With so generous an authorization, the Commission could and did request that Arkansas halves be coined at all three mints and in several consecutive years. If this weren’t enough to aggravate collectors (who naturally sought completeness in their sets), the Commission’s clumsy and sometimes suspect handling of distribution further fueled the fires of resentment surrounding this and other “serial” commemoratives.

The commission selected Edward Everett Burr to design the coin, and Emily Bates was to put the design into plaster. Unfortunately, the design of this issue was not well received. In fact, after the first models were delivered, the Fine Arts Commission requested that both the artist and sculptor be replaced. However, after some reworking, the design was eventually approved and sent to the Medallic Art Company of New York for reduction to hubs. The obverse of the coin features the conjoined busts of a Quapaw Indian and Lady Liberty. The reverse is emblazoned with a large eagle in front of a rising sun with the name Arkansas above.

A total of 10,008 coins were coined in Philadelphia in May of 1935. They sold well, and an additional 3,000 were ordered later in the year. At the advice of prominent coin dealer B. max Mehl, small mintages were ordered from the Denver and San Francisco Mints, to the tune of 5,500 coins each. They were supposedly available for purchase from the Arkansas Centennial Commission for just $1, but unfortunately most of them had already been secretly sold to Mehl, who then retailed them for $2.75 each. . Subsequent issues, offered annually through 1939, were subject to the same unfair manipulations at ever-higher mark-ups. Such practices ultimately brought down the wrath of Congress. It passed a law on August 5, 1939, terminating the re-issue of all previously-authorized commemoratives.

In 1939, sales of the Arkansas Centennial half dollar once again floundered, with only 2100 sets distributed. Due to this low mintage, all 3 of the 1939 issues are the key dates of this commemorative issue.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 2/20/2017

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

Base $ - - 108 145 185 230 240 250 265 280 300 315 345 385 650 1375 4500 - - -
$ - - - - - - - - - - 900 1850 10750 -

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Total Graded: 490
Low Grade: 61
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 67

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
2/24/1999 PCGS MS 63   Teletrade Auction 1136, 1136/Lot# 1698 $218.00
6/3/2004 PCGS MS 66   Heritage Auctions 2004 June Long Beach Signature Sale #349, 349/Lot# 10076 $1,840.00
8/18/2004 PCGS MS 66   Heritage Auctions 2004 August Pittsburgh, PA Signature Sale #352, 352/Lot# 8048 $1,495.00
5/30/2005 PCGS MS 66   Goldberg May 30 - June 16, 2005 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 31/Lot# 646 $1,035.00
6/17/2010 NGC MS 65   Stack's Bowers The June 2010 Baltimore Auction, 41/Lot# 3152 $460.00
12/8/2011 PCGS MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2011 December 8-11 US Coins Signature Auction- New York Session(5), 1162/Lot# 10259 $264.50
11/25/2012 PCGS MS 64   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 11/25/2012, 50/Lot# 82654 $331.10
9/21/2014 PCGS MS 64   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 822, 831/Lot# 286 $365.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1939 50C MS S ARKANSAS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 67
Points: 4876
Owner: Bruce Young
Grade: MS 65
Points: 1515
Owner: Dick's Classic Commemoratives
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