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Mayflower's Finest: The Pilgrim Half Dollar

2022-11-21 19:00:00
Mayflower's Finest: The Pilgrim Half Dollar
Posted in: News, News

Mayflower's Finest: The Pilgrim Half Dollar

402 years ago, on November 21, 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts, creating what is now remembered as the Plymouth Colony. These Pilgrims, also known as Puritan Separatists, originally escaped religious persecution under King James I of England in 1609 by moving to the Netherlands. By 1620, however, they aimed their sights away from the European continent and focused on getting across the Atlantic Ocean to America. To celebrate the 300-year anniversary of this historic event, the US Mint struck a commemorative half dollar starting in 1920.

Originally, a total of 500,000 coins were authorized for production, but by the time the legislation was drafted the number fell to 300,000. It took two years, 1920 and 1921, to produce these coins, and nearly half of all of them were melted down. Initially, 200,112 coins were produced in 1920, of which 48,000 were melted, leaving a final net mintage of 152,112 coins. The following year, 100,053 coins were struck before 80,000 were promptly melted down, leaving only 20,053 coins dated 1921.

Designed by Boston Sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, the Pilgrim Tercentenary Half Dollar’s obverse shows a bust of William Bradford holding a bible to his chest. Bradford was one of the original Pilgrims to sail to America on the Mayflower, and he was the second Governor of Plymouth Colony. As a signatory of the Mayflower Compact, Bradford was crucial in establishing the first government in Plymouth. The obverse of the 1920 Pilgrim Tercentenary does not display a date, but the obverse of the 1921 issue displays the date in front of Bradford.

The reverse of this coin exhibits a rendition of the Mayflower ship, which transported 102 passengers and a crew of 30 to America during its 10-week expedition. Beneath the ship, the double date “1620 – 1920” can be seen, representing the three-hundred years since Bradford and the Pilgrims landed in what is now known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

As mintages would suggest, the 1920 Pilgrim Tercentenary is more common in most grades than its 1921 counterpart. Both coins are relatively available in Mint State grades up to Mint State 65, with examples becoming scarce in Mint State 66 and rare in Mint State 67 and above.

The 1920 and 1921 Pilgrim Tercentenary Half Dollars are a wonderful reminder of our country’s humble beginnings. A reminder that we started off as a nation of people escaping religious persecution. A nation that was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.