This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The Missouri commemorative half dollar is a coin that shows us just how even back in the early 1920s effort was made to figure out ways to sell more commemoratives. Ninety years later we can observe today’s efforts and realize that not much has changed.
The year 1921 was the 100th anniversary of the admission of Missouri to the Union. The anniversary was celebrated at Sedalia during August of 1921, and a Missouri half dollar was approved for the event.
The coin was designed by Robert Aitken, a well respected artist of the time who, among other things, had designed the $50 Panama-Pacific International Exposition gold coins.
For his work on the Missouri half dollar, Aitken used a frontiersman on the obverse and a frontiersman and Indian on the reverse. Most believe that the frontiersman is Daniel Boone.
It has to be remembered that the commemorative coin program was still fairly young at the time. Most collectors were not in the habit of buying commemoratives every year. In fact, there weren’t even commemoratives issued every year. The commemoratives that had appeared were something of a mixed group. There seemed to be no real pattern.
In 1921 there would be Pilgrim, Alabama and Missouri half dollars. It was also the year when the silver dollar would return, first with the old Morgan dollar design and later with the new Peace dollar design. The average collector was confronted with an unusual number of new issues.
A total of 5,000 Missouri half dollars were struck first. On the obverse was a “2” followed by a star and then a “4” to represent the state being the 24th to enter the Union. Being a limited issue, these special coins could be sold for potentially more than the 15,428 coins with nothing in the field.
Today the special Missouri “2*4” has higher prices in most grades than the regular Missouri half dollar. The “2*4” lists for $800 in MS-60 as opposed to $725 for the regular issue. However, in MS-65, the two types both list for $5,000.
Interestingly enough, the Professional Coin Grading Service totals tend to support what might seem like surprising prices. The regular Missouri half dollar with a mintage three times greater than the “2*4” has appeared 154 times in MS-65 as opposed to 194 times for the “2*4.” At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the “2*4” in MS-65 has appeared 138 times while the regular Missouri half dollar has appeared 168 times in MS-65.
Basically it is very close to a draw in terms of numbers seen today. Even if we allow for the fact that some examples have not been graded and others graded more than once, we tend to expect that the difference between the two is relatively small. This would justify the similar prices today despite the fact that there was a significant difference in the number of coins produced of the two.
For the collector, that may leave some uncertainty as to whether both are really needed. That depends on whether you are assembling a type collection or a complete collection. Of course with such similar prices the “2*4” and its lower mintage may seem like a better deal, but whatever your choice, the Missouri half dollar ranks as an interesting example of early marketing for the commemoratives of the time.