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Iowa commem enjoyed unusual popularity

Item0729a.jpgFew others back their state like the people of Iowa. I used to live on the highway Iowa fans would take to go to the annual football game with Wisconsin. I treated that Saturday as if there were a blizzard and stayed off that highway. It was bumper-to-bumper with vehicles from Iowa.

At the game there were 85,000 tickets and only about 5,000 for Iowa.

Those 5,000 people were loud enough without letting any more in, but there must have been 200,000 residents of the state on their way to Madison to cheer on their team, even without tickets. That?s loyalty, and Iowa residents showed it with coins as well.

By 1946 everyone was basically over the commemorative coin program.

Money had disappeared, coins had disappeared, things that were not much more important than the annual Labor Day parade in a town of 6,000 residents had been commemorated and the writing was on the wall that commemoratives were going to be few and far between if there were any at all. Iowa snuck in at the last minute.

It was the anniversary of the state?s joining the Union and it?s pretty hard to refuse a commemorative for that, so Iowa got its commemorative. The obverse shows the first stone capitol building at Iowa City, while the reverse shows the Iowa state seal. The design was from Adam Pietz of Philadelphia.

Item0729b.jpgIn a somewhat surprising move, a total of 100,057 coins were struck and shipped to Iowa City. Perhaps it was a football weekend. Whatever the case, that was a lot of coins since there had been no commemoratives since 1939 and no new issues since 1918.

Iowa residents were given first shot at the coins, and just 5,000 were set aside for orders from out of state. Iowa residents got their coins at $2.50, others had to shell out $3. However, as the supply ran low the price became $3 for everyone, even if you came dressed in black and gold. The entire mintage was nearly gone by March of 1947.

At least 1,000 examples were not sold. They were in the hands of state, with 500 to be sold in 1996 and the other 500 to be sold in 2046. The state could not wait and began offering them in 1992 for $500 plus $10 handling.

At the time no one charged $10 handling for anything smaller than a barnyard animal, and certainly no one charged $500 for an Iowa half dollar. Today an Iowa half dollar lists at $120 in MS-60 and just $260 in MS-65. The 1992 sales were under-whelming and the unsold coins were put back in the vault.

Despite that little bit of unpleasantness, the Iowa half dollar was an enormously successful program at a time when everyone had basically given up on commemoratives. The coin is not tough, but it?s tough to find a program that was better run and more successful.

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