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Commems Collection: 1935 Cal-Pacific Exposition

 
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 Posted 06/04/2014  8:11 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
As I was sifting through my CCF files, I realized that I never posted a core article about the "San Diego" half-dollar. I posted about one of the holders for the coin here: http://goccf.com/t/116166, but never swung back around to post about the coin itself. So...

The California-Pacific International Exposition (aka "America's Exposition") was held in San Diego, CA within the city's Balboa Park; the site had previously been used to host the 1915-16 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In fact, a number of the buildings built for the Pan-Pac Expo were refurbished and reused by the Cal-Pac Expo.

Unlike the Pan-Pac Expo which celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, the Cal-Pac Expo was not staged to commemorate a specific event. Instead, like many previous world's fairs, its purpose was to promote its host city - in this case, San Diego - and to draw businesses and new residents to the area. The Cal-Pac Expo was held during the time of the Great Depression; San Diego was suffering much like the rest of the country and was looking for a boost.

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The Expo opened on May 29, 1935 and ran through November 11th; the 1935 season had an attendance of approximately 5.2 million. The Expo reopened on February 12, 1936 and ran until September 9th; attendance for the second season reached 2 million. The Expo's organizers spent the three months between seasons upgrading the Expo grounds, replacing some of the exhibits and generally doing what they could to offer a "new" Expo to attract new and repeat visitors.

Admission to the Exposition was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. In the end, the Expo made a small profit and was deemed an overall financial success.

The California-Pacific International Exposition commemorative half-dollar (more commonly referred to as the "San Diego") was struck in 1935 and 1936; the 1935 coins were struck at the San Francisco Mint, with production of the 1936 issue being handled by the Denver Mint. The design was identical each year, save for the date and mint mark.

The obverse of the coin features a variation of the California State Seal. It depicts a seated, helmet-wearing Minerva (Roman goddess of wisdom) with a staff in her right hand and her left hand on a shield emblazoned with "Eureka" (the state motto of California). A grizzly bear sits at Minerva's feet on her right side. Also to Minvera's right is seen a sailing ship and a miner; the Sierra Nevada mountains are featured in the background.

The coin's reverse depicts portions of the California Building, identified by its dome, and the California Tower which rose beside it. The two structures were among the most popular attractions on the Exposition grounds.

The coins were designed by Robert Aiken, the artist who had previously designed the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition $50 Gold coins and the 1921 Missouri Centennial half-dollar. He also designed the official souvenir medal for the 1915 Pan-Pac Expo which was struck in several metals by the US Mint.

The original enabling legislation for the coin (approved in May 1935) allowed for a maximum of 250,000 coins to be minted, but did not include a restriction regarding when the coins could be struck or dated. The San Francisco Mint struck the full 250,000 coins for the Exposition in August 1935 and delivered them to the organizers. Sales were not as strong as hoped for, however, and a large number of coins remained unsold at the close of the Exposition's 1935 season.

The organizers moved quickly to arrange for new coins for the 1936 season. In May 1936, a new bill was approved that allowed for the Exposition Company to return 180,000 (72%) of the 1935-dated coins to the Mint for re-coinage. The Denver Mint replaced the returned coins with the same number of pieces bearing a "1936" date. The new coin generated even less excitement with fairgoers and collectors, as 150,000 (~83%) of the new coins were ultimately returned to Mint to be melted. The 1935-S coins originally sold for $1.00 each, the 1936-D coins for $1.50.

With a net distribution of roughly 100,000 between the two dates of issue, the San Diego half dollar is readily available to collectors. If your budget allows, I would suggest taking the time to find an attractive mint state example with full luster. There are many to choose from on the market " your effort to find one should be minimal.

In addition to images of my example of the coin, I've also presented an image of the Daily Bulletin from the Exposition which features an advertisement for the half dollars. The 1936 coins take top billing, but a limited number of the 1935 coins are also advertised as being available (at an increased price vs. 1935). Considering the number of coins that were eventually melted, the "Buy Now!" exclamation was apparently not very successful in driving coin sales.

Enjoy!


1935 California-Pacific International Exposition Half Dollar - Obverse




1935 California-Pacific International Exposition Half Dollar - Reverse




1935 California-Pacific International Exposition Bulletin




Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 06/05/2014  06:12 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bpoc1 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Commems, a very informative article.
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 Posted 06/05/2014  6:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Many Thanks commems for another exceptional description of the history behind a classic silver commemorative half.

Wondering if this description completes your insightful journey through the entire 50-coin classic silver type set?

Interesting to note the style differences between Robert Aiken contributions to classic commemorative design ... this coin and the 1915 Pan-Pacific $50 gold resemble coins to my eye ... his 1921 Missouri Centennial half dollar is very 'medal like' to my eye with it's wide rims and striking characteristics.


Quote:
If your budget allows, I would suggest taking the time to find an attractive mint state example with full luster.


Fully concur with this statement ... for reasons I do not fully understand there are numerous examples of both dates with full booming mint luster in higher grade ... suggest that any prospective buyer hold out for one of these.

David

Take a look at my other hobby ... http://www.finewoodcrafter.com
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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 Posted 06/06/2014  1:07 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Wondering if this description completes your insightful journey through the entire 50-coin classic silver type set?

I believe it does, but I may swing back around and add to a few of my early posts on the series. I was just getting my typing fingers loose back then and didn't go into much detail about the coins.


@All - Thanks for the supportive feedback.


Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 06/06/2014  6:59 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I may swing back around and add to a few of my early posts on the series.


I humbly await any additional commentary that you may choose to provide ...

Your insights to the coins supported by independent research is un-paralleled ... and as such deserving of all of our attention.

Best

David
Take a look at my other hobby ... http://www.finewoodcrafter.com
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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 Posted 06/09/2014  5:33 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Not Mint to Be to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Again thanks for all of this interesting information.
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