Tonight I thought I'd present a bit of interesting history concerning the 1921 Missouri Statehood Centennial commemorative half dollar - a case of advertising and reality taking separate paths.
Missouri became the 24th State to join the Union, doing so on August 10, 1821. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its statehood, the Missouri Centennial Committee was created and a Centennial Exposition and State Fair was planned; it was held in Sedalia August 8-20, 1921.
The bill authorizing a coin marking Missouri's Statehood Centennial became law on March 4, 1921 when it was signed by Warren G. Harding on his first day in office; Harding succeeded Woodrow Wilson.
As would be expected, the Committee began working on finalizing its coin's designs as well as the promotion of its coin soon after its approval. As the primary numismatic magazine of the time was the The Numismatist,
the official publication of the American Numismatic Association ( ANA
), it was natural for the Committee to promote its coin in the magazine via press notices and advertisements.
The first mention of the Missouri half dollar in The Numismatist
came in the magazine's August 1921 issue; it was the lead item in the "Editorial Comment - Numismatic News
" section. The Committee also placed a full-page advertisement for the coin in the same issue. The editorial release properly described the coin's design, but the advertisement presented a design that had already been rejected and replaced by the coin's designer - Robert Aiken. Original Advertisement for 1921 Missouri Half Dollar
The August issue included a note from a member of the Committee explaining the situation:"The artist who designed this coin sent us a proof of his drawing as soon as completed, and we had the cut made. Later, and unknown to us, the Mint committee having jurisdiction over these matters, changed the design by eliminating the Missouri coat of arms and substituting therefor the figures of a white man and an Indian as typifying the pioneer status of the State. We were not aware of this change until the first sample coin arrived here, and then did not have time to have new cuts made." (Note: The "cuts" referred to were the coin drawings used to illustrate the Commission's advertisements.) Photographs of an actual coin (with the correct design) appeared in the September issue of the ANA magazine.
In the December 1921 issue of The Numismatist,
Robert Aiken offered a different (and likely more accurate) take on the design issue: "The illustration that you published was made from one of several drawings which were submitted to the Federal Art Commission. The Missouri committee was informed that I would work along these lines, though I was given full latitude for any change I might advise. The Seal of the State did not work out well, so I developed the reverse with the two standing figures, which met with the instant approval of the Commission in Washington."
Note: The actual name of the Commission referred to by Aiken and the Committee member was the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA); both made incorrect references to it in the quotes above.
The coin's proposed design featuring the Missouri Coat of Arms was illustrated in the Committee's advertisement in the September, October and November 1921 issues of The Numismatist
. As can be seen from the ad, the Sedalia Trust Company handled the sales and distribution of the coin.
The coin illustrations in the ad were corrected for the December 1921 issue, and were continued for the ads that ran from January through November of 1922. All of the corrected advertisements promoted the 2*4 design variety vs. the plain variety; notice of the second variety first appeared in The Numismatist
in the December 1921 issue. The notice stated that the second variety was produced in a much more "limited number" vs. the original plain variety; the issue price for either variety was $1.00. Updated Advertisement for 1921 Missouri Half Dollar
In the end, I don't believe there was anything nefarious being perpetrated by the Missouri Committee - just a simple case of poor communication. It would appear that Aiken was not keeping the Committee as current as he should have been re: changes to the coin's design - a telephone call, telegram or even letter outlining the changes after the CFA's review would have likely prevented the incorrect design from being advertised - even though the advertising mishap did not appear to have a negative effect on the coin's sales. That said, it does make for an interesting little twist in the story line of the classic US commemorative coin series!