The Texas Centennial half dollar was first proposed in the 73rd Congress via companion bills introduced in the House and Senate on May 29, 1933. The coin was sponsored by the American Legion Texas Centennial Committee which had answered the call of the Texas Centennial Commission; the Centennial Commission had urged patriotic organizations across Texas to get involved and lend a hand in creating a grand centennial celebration. The bill sailed through Congress and was approved by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt just two weeks after its introduction, on June 15, 1933. That's fast!
Per the authorizing legislation, the coin was issued to commemorate "the one hundredth anniversary in 1936 of the independence of Texas and of the noble and heroic sacrifices of her pioneers, whose memory has been an inspiration to her sons and daughters." Note: The coin does not mark the anniversary of Texas' admission to the Union, it marks its independence from Mexico.Read More: Commems Collection
The new law called for the minting of up to 1.5 million silver half dollars of standard specifications. It did not, however, place restrictions on which mint facilities could be called upon to strike the coins or the timeframe under which the coins could be issued. The open-ended legislation ultimately led to the coin being struck each year from 1934 to 1938 (inclusive) with coins being produced in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco in all years except 1934.
The coins first went on sale in December 1934. The Texas American Legion had grand visions of high-volume sales and set out with the lofty goal of selling at least one souvenir coin to each family in Texas. Such sales did not materialize. Of the 205,000 1934-dated coins struck by the Philadelphia Mint, 143,650 were ultimately returned to the Mint and melted -- this left a net of 61,350 coins. (Side Note: The net mintage of 61,350 1934 (P) coins proved to be the high water mark for the entire Texas series.
The large number of returned coins was necessitated by the fact that the Mint would not strike any new coins (i.e., coins with a "1935" date) until the large inventory of 1934-dated coins was addressed. Deciding that it would prove next to impossible to quickly sell its entire remaining inventory of 1934 coins, the Legion released the bulk of its stock to the Mint and thus cleared the way for new issues.
The Mint struck 30,000 coins bearing a "1935" date -- 10,000 coins each from Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Though essentially all would be sold, the pace of sales was not what was originally envisioned and did not forecast well going forward. At 30,000 coins per year, it would take (hypothetically) over 47 years to sell out the authorized mintage of 1.5 million! So, what to do to spur sales?
In January 1936, companion bills proposing a change to the coin's original authorizing legislation were introduced in the House and Senate. The Senate bill was introduced by Thomas Terry Connally (D-TX); the House bill by Charles Lacy South (D-TX).
The bills called for "a series of not more than five different designs to be placed on the reverse side" of the Texas coin - i.e., four new coins! The current obverse design of an American eagle superimposed on the Texas "Lone Star" was to continue on the proposed new coins.
The House bill was referred to its Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures where it was met with favor and subsequently reported out to the full House with a recommendation for approval. The Committee's viewpoint was accepted by the House; the bill passed without issue. The Senate bill did not enjoy the same smooth sail.
The Senate bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency which held a hearing on pending commemorative coin bills on March 11, 1936; 13 different bills were considered. The hearing was presided over by Committee chairman Duncan Fletcher (D-FL).
Senator Connally was unable to attend the hearing, but he sent his secretary, Robert M. Jackson, to speak on behalf of the bill. Jackson noted that all proceeds from the sale of the current Texas Centennial coin were going directly to fund a Texas memorial museum on the campus of University of Texas vs. a private organization and that the same would be true for the funds raised by the new coins.
He was asked why new coins were being sought and responded with an honest and straightforward reply, "[the local coin committee] was having difficulty selling them, and that by changing the design people will want to but not one coin only but the entire set of coins.In other words, they have one coin now and after they sell that one coin to a person that is the end of it so far as that person is concerned, but by having five different designs people will want to buy the set."
Chairman Fletcher had some experience with commemorative coinage matters and astutely raised the issue that if the bill was ultimately approved, it would actually authorize twelve new coins and not just four as it was assumed that the Texas coin committee would want each design to be struck at each of the three mint facilities. Jackson agreed with Fletcher's observation and conclusion.
After continued discussion and follow-up after the hearing, the Senate Committee ultimately did not endorse the new Texas coin proposal. In their report to the full Senate, the Committee recommended that a single new 1936-dated coin be approved with a maximum mintage of one million. The amendment stipulated that the new coin could only be struck for a period of one year following the bill's enactment.
The amended bill passed the Senate but was not approved by the House (it favored the five-design bill it had previously passed). The Senate refused to budge and asked that the opposing bills be debated and resolved in conference (i.e., an appointed subset of Senators and Representatives).
Ultimately, neither the House bill nor the Senate bill was agreed upon and no compromise bill was generated. As a result, no new Texas commemorative coin bill was approved by Congress in 1936 and the original legislation from 1933 remained in force; the original design continued with coins struck in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco in 1936, 1937 and 1938.
It would have been interesting to see what designs might have been selected had the bill for the new coins passed. In 1933, the American Legion had received many design suggestions from the general public for the original coin. Some of these included: a map of Texas, the first capitol building of Texas, the dome of the current capitol building, portraits of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, the state seal and scenes from the Battle of San Jacinto. It isn't hard to imagine a series designed around such suggestions.
As interesting as a Texas series might have been, I think it was wise for the Senate to stop the Texas request in its tracks. If approved, it would have become the template used by other organizations to increase the number of coins they requested of Congress and the abuses inflicted upon collectors during the mid-1930s would likely have been even worse.
Here is one of the Texas coins in my collection - a first-year 1934 example. As always, my scans don't do justice to the coin - it is a fully brilliant example with terrific cartwheel luster.