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.Read More: Commems Collection
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 â€" 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 - Obverse1935 California-Pacific International Exposition Half Dollar - Reverse1935 California-Pacific International Exposition Bulletin