To obtain a design for its "Delaware Swedish Tercentenary Commemorative Coin," the Delaware Swedish Tercentenary Commission launched an open design contest soon after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the resolution authorizing the coin on May 15, 1936.
The familiar designs seen on the coin were specified in the contest rules:For the obverse:
"a ship under sail, this being the crest of the Delaware Coat of Arms, and regarded as a popular symbol of the State, such ship to be modeled after the Swedish "Key of Kalmar", in which the settlers first reached Delaware."For the reverse:
"the old Swedish Church at Wilmington."
Submitted designs were also required to include the inscription:
The rules stated: "The use of a small diamond as indicated in this inscription, to be placed before and after each of the dates is suggested because the nickname for the State is the "Diamond State." Note: As the coin's final design differs in its arrangement of "DELAWARE TERCENTENARY" and the anniversary dates, the four diamonds originally envisioned became just three. As a result, most references state that the diamonds represent Delaware's three counties: New Castle, Kent and Sussex. This may be true, though it does not appear to have been the Commission's initial intent.
The Commission was apparently very budget-conscious. If an artist in the contest wanted photographs of the church and an accurate model of the Kalmer Nyckel,
for reference, the contest announcement stated that they were available from the Commission for $1.50.
The contest required competitors to submit a plaster model of his/her design for one side of the coin and a drawing of their proposed design for the other side; the contest rules did not identify a particular side for either the model or drawing - artist's choice! Contest entries reflected the option left open to the competing artists, as models were submitted for each of the coin's sides. Neither the models nor the drawings were to include the artist's name, contact information or other identifying mark(s), such information was only to be included in an unmarked envelope accompanying the submission. Entries were assigned a unique number and judged anonymously.Proposed Kalmar Nyckel Design by Joseph M. McIntoshProposed Old Swedes Church Design by Adam Pietz
(Pietz was the Assistant Chief Engraver at the US Mint between 1927 and 1946.) (Image Credit: Both images are part of Delaware Historical Society Archives and were made available via its official Facebook page. They are presented here under Fair Use guidelines.
All plasters and drawings submitted were required to have a maximum diameter of 8-1/2 inches. The models were required to be slightly concave (lower in the center, higher at the rims) with a maximum height difference of 5/32" (the highest point of the device(s) was required to be lower than the border/rim). These specifications were designed to make the plasters acceptable to the Treasury Department.
The contest announcement/rules also stated the need for the coin designs to include "United States of America," "In God We Trust,"E Pluribus Unum" and "Liberty." Also specified was the requirement for the date and denomination.
A panel consisting of three members of the Commission and two non-competing artists/sculptors served as judges for the submissions. The then-current Chief Engraver of the US Mint, John R. Sinnock
, and independent artist/sculptor, Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie, participated as consulting judges. The Delaware Historical Society reports that 38 submissions were received.
The competition closed on October 1, 1936 and the Commission reserved the right to not accept any of the submissions if none were of "sufficient merit." The entry of Carl Ludwig Schmitz was found to be acceptable, and his designs were selected as the contest winners. For his efforts, Schmitz received a $500 prize.1936 Delaware Tercentenary Half Dollar
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more on the history of the Delaware Tercentenary half dollar, see: Commems Collection.