Description and Analysis

Silver Commemoratives

Description & Analysis

The Huguenot half dollar was struck in 1924 in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Huguenot peoples’ arrival in America after fleeing religious prosecution in Europe. The coin was not very well received as it was seen as a violation of the First Amendment separating church and state. Yet the Huguenot-Walloon New Netherland Commission was successful in lobbying Congress to authorize the coin. Revenue for the coin was to be used to help offset the cost of tercentenary celebrations planned for 1924. On February 26th, 1923, a bill was passed which authorized the coining of up to 300,000 half dollars to commemorate “the settling of New Netherland, the Middle States, in 1624, by Walloons, French and Belgian Huguenots, under the Dutch West India Company.”

Famed designer of the Morgan dollar, George T. Morgan, was selected to design the coin. The obverse depicts the conjoined portraits of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and William the Silent, both of whom were Huguenot martyrs assassinated decades before the founding of New Netherland. Also included are UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arced above their heads, with HUGUENOT HALF DOLLAR below, and IN GOD WE TRUST in small letters to their right. The reverse depicts the Huguenots’ ship, the Nieuw Nederlandt, with HUGEHUENOT-WALLOON TERCENTENERARY above, and FOUNDING OF NEW NETHERLAND below. Flanking the ship on either side are the dates 1624 and 1924.

After some serious revisions to make the coins easier to strike, the Commission of Fine Arts approved the final models. In early 1924, 142,000 Huguenot commemoratives were coined in Philadelphia. Of that total, 87,000 were sold to the public at the price of $1 each through the Fifth National Bank of New York. While the remaining balance of 55,000 coins should have been returned to the mint for melting, that doesn’t seem to have happened in this case. Those coins were actually released directly into circulation. That leaves this issue with a final mintage of 142,000.