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Commems Collection: 1935 Arkansas Centennial

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 Posted 05/01/2012  9:47 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
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 MS-65.

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!


1935 Arkansas Statehood Centennial -- Obverse

1935 Arkansas Statehood Centennial -- Reverse

Arkansas Centennial Promotional Booklet -- Front Cover

Arkansas Centennial Promotional Booklet -- Back Cover

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 05/01/2012  11:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CoinsKelly to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As usual, excellent comentary and beautiful coin. THANKS!
Edited by CoinsKelly
05/01/2012 11:43 pm
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 Posted 05/02/2012  11:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very nice!

I lived in Arkansas for almost two years and enjoyed it, so this is another coin on my 7070 list. I do prefer this design to the 1936 Robinson obverse.
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 Posted 05/02/2012  6:56 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
First impression was toning on the obverse that is a bit distracting ... but I read your post again and agree that digital scans/photos often show things that are not apparent in hand.

With my poor photography skills .... it happens all the time in my images as well.

I've never been a fan of the Arkansas design and series of fifteen date/mm coins ... no disrespect to the residents of Arkansas ... it was IMHO a significant abuse of the collector that allowed 15 of these to be produced.

This coin ... and the equivalent Boone series ... are the main reason why I will never aspire to a complete 144-coin classic silver commemorative set.

To your lovely coin ... another example that could easily be upgraded to MS66 ... and again I express my admiration for your wisdom of self to ignore technical grades in deference to collecting quality coins.

Well researched and reported story describing Lee Lawrie non-acknowledged contributions to the coin ... your details of each coins history are very impressive indeed.

This is a very tough coin to find in honestly circulated grade ... in case any of you wish to pursue the circulated set as well.

Keep 'em coming commems.

Take a look at my other hobby ...
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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 Posted 05/03/2012  08:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add wquinn to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Another nice coin!
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