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Commems Collection: 1936 Albany Charter 250th

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 Posted 05/14/2012  7:13 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Today we spotlight the half-dollar struck to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the city of Albany, New York receiving its charter. The coin is presented via an example in PCGS MS-66.

Albany is the second oldest chartered city in the US, receiving its Charter in 1686; New York City was the first city to receive its Charter, just three months before Albany. Albany was a key New York settlement and trading center from its earliest days. At the time the Province of New York was split into counties (1683), Albany County was the largest and the city of Albany was selected as the County Seat. Since 1797, Albany has served as the state's capital.

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The obverse of the coin features a beaver, symbolic of the Albany area's first major industry - the trapping and trading of beaver pelts. The reverse of the coin features (at left) Thomas Dongan, the Governor of the Province of New York in 1686; it was Dongan who signed the Albany Charter. To the right are seen two men: Peter Schuyler, the Head of the Commissioners for Indian Affairs in the area, he would also become the first mayor of Albany (he is depicted holding the Charter); and Robert Livingston, who was the Secretary for Indian Affairs.

The Albany Charter half-dollar was the work of Gertrude Lathrop, who also designed the half-dollar for New Rochelle. Just like with that coin, Miss Lathrop spent many hours in libraries and museums conducting research to ensure the accuracy of her designs. For the Albany half-dollar, this meant time at the New York Historical Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) and the Smithsonian Institution -- she wanted to make certain that her design and depiction of the key players in the granting of Albany's Charter were as accurate as possible. You may recall from my New Rochelle post that Miss Lathrop used a live calf as a "model" while she prepared the models for that coin. Miss Lathrop did the same for the Albany coin, bringing a live beaver into her studio as she worked on the coin's models. This investment in and commitment to her work is evident in the excellent designs of the coin -- they are simultaneously simple, impactful and historically accurate. I find it to be among the more attractive coins in the series.

In an earlier discussion of the Albany half-dollar, via a post by TreeMonkey (, the small size of the inscription "Liberty" was pointed out by nickelsearcher. This was also noted by the Commission of Fine Arts when they reviewed Miss Lathrop's models. The Commission was concerned that "Liberty" would not reduce well and therefore be problematic on the coin itself. Miss Lathrop showed her models to John Sinnock, then Chief Engraver of the US Mint, to obtain his opinion. Sinnock did not believe there would be any issues encountered when the models were reduced, so the Commission approved Lathrop's models "as is."

The Philadelphia Mint struck 25,000 of the coins in 1936, but a little over 7,000 were returned to the Mint in 1943 for melting. Commemorative sales were facing tough times when the Albany was released as the crazy, speculative market in them had gone bust and the sales of many coins fell far short of expectations.

The coin shown is a nice, white specimen with good luster on obverse and reverse. I've seen quite a few Albany half-dollars over the years with rather unattractive, mottled brown toning. I've also seen quite a few white examples that appear dull and "lifeless" because of over dipping (likely to remove mottled brown toning). Nice examples are out there in mid- and upper-mint state grades, but I would suggest taking your time to find one with attractive surfaces and nice luster.

In addition to the coin, I've also included images of a few pages from a booklet published in 1936 by the "Committee on the Celebration of the Two Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary of the granting of the Dongan Charter."


1936 Albany Charter 250th Anniversary -- Obverse

1936 Albany Charter 250th Anniversary -- Reverse

Anniversary Booklet -- Cover

Anniversary Booklet -- Mayor's Welcome

Anniversary Booklet -- Chronology of Albany History

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 05/14/2012  9:26 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add TreeMonkey to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Stunning coin and a much nicer example than my MS-64 Albany. Thanks again for you efforts to share this beautiful series of rare (but IMHO under appreciated) coins.
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 Posted 05/15/2012  2:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As always, very nice and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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 Posted 05/15/2012  3:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The Albany Half always brings a smile to my face when I see it ... I appreciate the funky design that Ms. Lathrop came up with ... the story of the live beaver in her studio ... and the 'mini' Liberty that you mentioned all combine to create for me a memorable story behind a fun coin.

Yours is a lovely example with tremendous visual impact ... outstanding coin where many of this example are found today either poorly toned or dipped to death.

Thanks again for sharing your coins and knowledge with us commems.

Take a look at my other hobby ...
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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 Posted 05/16/2012  10:45 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add wquinn to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Another awesome coin and post!
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