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Statue of Liberty half hugely popular even if clad

People almost never give the 1986 Statue of Liberty half dollar a second thought. It’s a shame. The 1986 Statue of Liberty half dollar is an interesting and historic coin that certainly had an impact at the time and remains the standard as to what the commemorative coin program can potentially become if it is managed carefully and wisely.

The 1986 Statue of Liberty half dollar was something new. It was to be the first modern commemorative clad half dollar. There had been a George Washington half dollar, but it was a traditional 90 percent silver composition. No one had really tested the idea of a commemorative half dollar containing no silver.

Of course at the time of issue, a lot of the ideas for commemoratives we take for granted today had not been tested.

As it turned out, the clad half dollar was an interesting coin with the Edgar Steever obverse showing the Statue of Liberty as a ship of immigrants pulls into New York harbor with the New York skyline in the background. The reverse by Sheri Joseph Winter has an immigrant family on the threshold of America. Like the other Statue of Liberty coins of 1986, the topic seemed to inspire artists, as you can probably make the case that coin for coin the Statue of Liberty commemoratives comprise one of the most artistic issues.

As it turned out, the Statue of Liberty coin program was primarily the story of the $5 gold, which sold out its 500,000 authorization and then soared in price. The silver dollar and clad half dollar were overshadowed.

What is overlooked is that once the $5 gold sold out, the Statue of Liberty silver dollar and clad half dollar continued to sell. Officials in defending the idea of a clad half dollar had made the point that the denomination was worthwhile even though it would produce limited revenue because it would allow young and low-budget collectors to acquire at least one Statue of Liberty commemorative and that might spark regular future purchases. Unfortunately, that idea has been forgotten and half dollars appear only sporadically in other programs.

The fact is there was clearly a market for the Statue of Liberty half dollar.It ended up with sales of 928,008 BU examples and a record 6,925,627 proofs. The combined total of about 7.8 million coins is by far a record for a modern commemorative of any composition. Certainly any fears about the buyers rejecting clad half dollars were laid to rest. Moreover, while the surcharge on a half dollar was not large, the fact remains when you sell that many coins the profits do mount up.

Naturally, with record mintages, the 1986 State of Liberty half is not expensive. Both the BU and proof are safely under $10. In this case, however, price appreciation is not really the point.

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