Today we have a look at one of the more dubious commemorative half-dollars of the classic series, the 1936 coin to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of York County, Maine. The coin is presented via two examples, one in PCGS
MS-67 and the other in PCGS
I remember when I first thought about collecting US commemoratives. I went through the " Red Book
" to get a sense of the series to make sure it was something I wanted to pursue. As I had a look at each issue, I rather quickly noted whether it marked a person, place or event with which I was familiar. In most cases, the answer was "Yes." For a few issues, my recognition came more from local familiarity due to my growing up in the Northeast (e.g., New Rochelle, NY, Bridgeport, CT) than anything I learned in school about them. I have to say, however, I was completely unfamiliar with York County, Maine either from a geographic or American history standpoint. Even after I looked it up, I still had to wonder why it was the subject of a US commemorative coin. Being the oldest county in present-day Maine and one of the oldest counties in the US hardly seems a worthy enough "accomplishment" for a US coin subject. But why quibble? Let's chalk it up to being one of the many endearing quirks of the "greatest show" on round silver discs!Read More: Commems Collection
On the obverse of the coin is depicted Brown's Garrison, said to be one of the first stockades built in the county; it was located on the Saco River in present-day Saco, Maine. The coin's reverse features the Seal of York County. These "official" designations of obverse and reverse are counter to the "adopted" conventions used by most of today's collectors and the third-party grading services. The coin's designs are the work of Portland, Maine wild life artist Walter Rich -- yes, wild life artist! While the simple York County Seal was executed well enough, the depiction of Brown's Garrison was considered less than ideal. In defense of Mr. Rich, he was provided as source material a rather unimpressive woodcut of the garrison that appeared in the 1931 book The Proprietors of Saco
; the woodcut can be seen on the coin's mailer/holder shown below. The book was written by the circa 1936 president of the York National Bank -- Maine's first bank -- which was connected with the coin and so the "pressure" to use the woodcut is understandable. Another factor in the choice -- the bank's office in Saco was constructed on the former site of Brown's Garrison.
A wealth of "insider" information about the York half-dollar as well as other US commemorative coins can be found in the book, An Inside View of the Coin Hobby in the 1930s: The Walter P. Nichols File
. Mr. Nichols served as the secretary and treasurer of the York County Tercentenary Commemorative Coin Commission, as well as distributor for the coins. The book is filled with Mr. Nichol's hobby correspondence; it was edited/assembled by Q. David Bowers. Heartily recommended!
A total of 25,000 York County half-dollars were struck, all at Philadelphia; none were melted. Many choice and gem examples are available for today's collector, so don't settle for one that is unattractive or has problems. Shown here are two of the three York's in my collection. The first is an MS-67 example that has the nicest overall eye appeal of any York I have seen over my years of collecting. It is primarily a brilliant, white coin but it has lovely peripheral golden toning and subtle pastel shades of blue and purple -- I believe even those with a preference for pure white coins would enjoy this one! If not, I've also included my MS-65 coin which is brilliant, lustrous and tone-free. (The third coin in my York "set" is another brilliant, white MS-65 in one of PCGS
' old "rattler" holders -- I got a great deal on it yeas ago and couldn't pass it up.) FYI: My scans do not come close to doing justice on the MS-67 example.
I've also included some images of the original holder/mailer for the coin. You'll see from the holder the York National Bank tie-in; all correspondence regarding coin orders was directed to the bank's Saco office. This is the only holder that I'm aware of that included a piece of protective tissue paper with printing.
Enjoy!1936 York County Tercentenary -- MS-67 Obverse1936 York County Tercentenary -- MS-67 Reverse1936 York County Tercentenary -- MS-65 Obverse1936 York County Tercentenary -- MS-65 Reverse1936 York County Tercentenary Original Mailer/Holder -- Front1936 York County Tercentenary Original Mailer/Holder -- Interior1936 York County Tercentenary Original Mailer/Holder -- Protective Tissue Paper