Description and Analysis
1938 D BOONE 50C MS
Description & Analysis
Daniel Boone was once known by all as one of the first folk heroes of the United States. His service during the French and Indian War was followed by the exploration of the newly acquired Florida in 1763. Unfortunately Mrs. Boone did not appreciate the heat and humidity of the territory, so Boone commenced his explorations of Kentucky during 1769-1771. They attempted to establish a colony there in 1773, but were foiled by hostile Native Americans. He persevered two years later, however, establishing Boonesboro in 1775. While there were some hostilities between Boone and the Native tribes, he eventually made Peace with Chief Blackfish of the Chillicothe tribe, an event depicted on the commemorative coin.
In late spring of 1934, sculptor Augustus Lukeman was hired by the Kentucky Daniel Boone Bicentennial Commission to prepare designs for the coin honoring the frontiersman. Unfortunately for the commission, Lukeman ignored several of their artistic requirements for the coin, and eventually the Commission was forced to concede and simply run with the designs provided after minor changes. The obverse features a left-facing idealized portrait of Daniel Boone, along with United States of America and Half Dollar. On the reverse, full-length figures of Boone and Chief Black Fish face one another against a backdrop of the Boonesboro blockhouse at left and the rising sun at right. To the left is the inscription DANIEL BOONE BICENTENNIAL and to the right the words PIONEER YEAR are featured. The latter is a reference to the date 1934, which appears below the figures on coins minted in 1934 and above the phrase itself on pieces coined during part of 1935 and thereafter through 1938. IN GOD WE TRUST and E PLURIBUS UNUM are arranged around the upper periphery.
The act of May 26, 1934 called for the coining of up to 600,000 half dollars honoring the bicentennial of Boone’s birth. The money raised was to be used in restoring four historic sites associated with Boone and early Kentucky. There was nothing in the bill which specified the date or mint of the coinage, nor was any sales price dictated. Although not unusual in such legislation, these omissions would be exploited to their fullest by the Boone Commission during the commemorative coin mania of the next few years.
The initial coinage dated 1934 amounted to just 10,00 coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint. These were sold at $1.60 apiece by Secretary Dunn from an office in Lexington’s Phoenix Hotel. These sold reasonably well, yet a new striking of 10,010 halves from the Philadelphia Mint appeared the following year with the date 1935. This was followed by Denver and San Francisco Mint issues coined a couple of months later to the amount of 5,005 pieces each. The prices asked were $1.10, $1.50 and $1.50, respectively.
Of course, the reference to a pioneer year was now irrelevant, since that year (1934) no longer appeared on the coins. This was remedied later in 1935, when a small date 1934 was added above the inscription PIONEER YEAR per new legislation dated August 26, 1935. 10,010 examples of this variety were struck at Philadelphia, but the Denver and San Francisco Mints coined only 2,003 and 2,004 pieces, respectively. Highly publicized as rarities by Secretary Dunn, these were offered at a cost of $3.70 for the pair.
Collectors were understandably surprised by this development, and some a little annoyed, yet they had no choice but to order this extra issue if their sets were to be complete. Dunn, claiming that the offering of 2,000 pair had been oversubscribed, returned most of the checks sent him. Collectors and dealers quickly sensed that a fraud had been perpetrated against them, as so few persons received their coins from the Commission, yet a handful of dealers, Dunn included, just happened to have some available at their new market level of up to $50 for the pair!
This episode set the tone for future offerings of this and other “serial” commemoratives of the mid-to-late 1930’s. With nothing to prevent further issues of the Boone halves, new editions were put out annually in three-piece sets through 1938. Both prices and ordering options varied from year to year, creating much confusion and resentment. Congress finally put an end to this abuse in 1939 with the passage of a bill prohibiting the further minting of any commemorative coins authorized prior to that date.