When it comes to historic commemoratives, one has to ask, ?What on earth were they thinking?? It is hard to imagine the exact reason why certain issues ever received approval. The Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar is one of the first of such cases.
There had been an increase in the number of issues in the 1920s, but 1922, 1923 and 1924 saw just one new issue each.
Suddenly there was a host of new issues in 1925. There was the Stone Mountain half, the Lexington-Concord half and the California Diamond Jubilee half. Then there was the Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar. One might well guess which of the four would have a limited audience of potential buyers.
If there was one aspect of the Fort Vancouver half, designed by Laura Gardin Fraser, that fit with the other half dollars of 1925, is its solid design. It was one of the best years in U.S. history for commemorative design.
However, a couple of things were missing. There is no ?S? mintmark even though the coins were made at San Francisco. Also missing were buyers. The coins were priced at $1, and profits went to a pageant to mark the centennial. Fort Vancouver half dollar sales were a very modest 14,994.
It was not that there were no buyers in 1925. The Stone Mountain half dollar sold over 1.3 million, and the Lexington Concord topped 160,000. The California Diamond Jubilee rounded out the other half dollars of the year at over 86,000. So there were buyers for other coins, but just no buyers for the Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar.
For many years the general belief was that there were no hoards, which made it potentially one of the toughest half dollar commemoratives because of its low mintage. Before the appearance of a hoard in the early 1980s, there were estimates of fewer than 300 choice Mint State examples.
In 1982, however, Q. David Bowers reports that his firm purchased a group of 257. ?I was eventually led to believe that no more than 500 totally came to light,? he recounts in his book, American Coin Treasures and Hoards.
Certainly that hoard has helped with the available supply, but it is not enough to meet the demand. With its low mintage, the Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar ranks as one of the most elusive and expensive of the historic commemorative half dollars. In MS-60 it currently lists for $415, while an MS-65 is at $1,450. The numbers at the grading services are low especially in MS-65 or better.
We cannot be sure that there are only 600 or so in MS grades to be found, but the number is still low. This makes the Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar a top commemorative half dollar.