This evening's offering is the commemorative half-dollar struck to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Arkansas being admitted to the Union as the 25th state. The coin is presented via an example in PCGS
The Arkansas has one of the series' more interesting design stories. Edward Burr's original sketches for the coin differ notably from the final designs. For example, rather than the left-facing side portraits of a Native American chief wearing a headdress and an allegorical Miss Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap that is seen on the struck coin, the original sketches featured face-forward portraits of the pair looking out at the viewer. On the eagle side, the full Arkansas State Flag (pole-mounted) was depicted behind the perched eagle vs. just the portion of the flag seen on the coin. Read More: Commems Collection
Burr's original designs were approved by the Arkansas Centennial Celebration Committee and were then sent on to the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). Unfortunately, the design sketches were rejected based on the CFA's belief that they couldn't be properly modeled for minting as a US half-dollar. The CFA also questioned the choice of artist for the assignment and suggested making a change. The Centennial committee stuck with Burr but he was not easily convinced his designs needed alteration and so a letter clarifying the meaning behind the design elements he chose was sent to the CFA. CFA member (and sculptor) Lee Lawrie reviewed the letter and responded that it was OK to move forward with the design concepts but that they needed to be simplified for use on the intended coin. In his return letter, Lawrie included simple sketches that he thought would work -- his sketches are essentially the final design seen on the issued half-dollar.
Burr finalized the design sketches based on Lawrie's suggestions and sculptor Emily Bates created the models for the coin. As with the design sketches, the models were also criticized by the CFA and needed changes before being accepted; Ms. Bates' skills were also questioned by the CFA. In the end, the Centennial Committee kept its desired local artists involved in the coin and the CFA got the changes/improvements it wanted -- an acceptable compromise for both sides. I find it interesting that Lawrie does not typically get any credit for the coin's final design even though it was his rough sketches that served as the basis for the issued coin -- but now, dear reader, at least you know the full story!
The Arkansas was one of several classic commemoratives to be struck and issued in multiple years. The first coins were issued in 1935 (even though Arkansas' centennial year was 1936) and the last were released in 1939; coins were struck at each US Mint in each year of production. A complete set of Arkansas Centennial half-dollars is comprised of 15 coins.
The coin shown is a brilliant, mostly white coin with excellent obverse and reverse cartwheel luster. Note: The obverse scan is exaggerating some subtle golden toning (showing as tan areas on the image) and giving the false impression of a strongly toned coin -- it isn't.
I've also included images of the front and back covers of a promotional booklet put out by the Arkansas Centennial Commission. It presented the various geographic regions of the state and the wonders that could be found in each if the state were to be visited during the Centennial year!
Enjoy!1935 Arkansas Statehood Centennial -- Obverse1935 Arkansas Statehood Centennial -- ReverseArkansas Centennial Promotional Booklet -- Front CoverArkansas Centennial Promotional Booklet -- Back Cover