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‘Solid’ half dollar honors Wisconsin’s solid people

In Iola if there is a favorite commemorative it’s pretty safe to assume that coin might well be the 1936 Wisconsin half.

There is a pretty good case to be made that the Wisconsin half dollar is worthy of special recognition from a national audience, too. To mark the centennial anniversary of the Wisconsin Territorial government, those responsible went to the people for design ideas and appropriately for a state where education has always been a major priority it was a University of Wisconsin student by the name of David Parsons who created the original design, which was then made technically acceptable by Benjamin Hawkins.

The design of the Wisconsin half dollar has an obverse featuring a badger on a log with the state emblem and arrows, which represented the Black Hawk War in the 1830s. For the reverse, there is the Territorial seal that includes a forearm holding a pickaxe over a mound of lead ore and the inscription “4TH DAY OF JULY ANNO DOMINI 1836.”

The Wisconsin half may not have been the most artistically accomplished of the historic commemoratives, but it had a number of things that we like to think reflect the state in a positive light.

It’s worth remembering that in 1936 there was a virtual flood of commemoratives of all types. Some of the topics were appropriate, while others were not of national significance. State anniversaries seem fair game, but in 1936 they got down to city anniversaries, so while interesting, the fact remains that the Wisconsin half dollar was an appropriate topic in a year when that was not always the case.

Something else that can be said about the Wisconsin half is that there appears to have been nothing unusual in its marketing. That cannot be said for some of the other issues that year, including the famous Cincinnati Music Center half dollar that was suspect in terms of the topic as no one could find any reason to call Cincinnati a “Music Center” and even more suspect in terms of the marketing and what happened to the profits.

In the case of the Wisconsin half the mintage of 25,015 appears to have been a legitimate reflection of the sales. There are no reports of any significant unsold hoards and that is unusual, for at the time frequently large numbers of other unsold commemoratives ended up in the hands of dealers for sale at a later date.

We find the prices of the Wisconsin half reflect what was a reasonable supply that received reasonably good care from the collectors of the day. The Wisconsin half lists for $255 in MS-60, and an MS-65 is $400. Those levels are not high for a commemorative with its mintage.

While it might not be rare, you could probably suggest that the Wisconsin half is a solid coin. That’s its reputation and it fits the coin as well as the state and its people.

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