I previously discussed the 1936 half dollar that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Bridgeport, CT back in 2012; you can access it here: 1936 Bridgeport Centennial
. I thought I would take another look at the coin by exploring its authorizing legislation a bit more deeply.
The bill calling for the Bridgeport commemorative half dollar was introduced in the Senate on March 10, 1936; it proposed that a maximum of 10,000 coins be struck. The bill was referred to the Senate's Committee on Banking and Currency, where a recommendation for an amendment in the form of a substitution was made. The amendment restricted the coin to one design to be struck at one mint, mandated that all coins struck bear the date "1936" and limited the coin's minting to one year from the date of enactment. (I've previously discussed similar substitution amendments for the Battle of Gettysburg, Delaware Tercentenary and Long Island Tercentenary half dollars. You can find them at Read More: Commems Collection
The amended bill was brought to the full Senate for consideration and was passed without issue; it was then sent to the House for consideration. The House referred the bill to its Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures which reported it out with two recommended changes: one to the coin's mintage and another to the ordering rules for the coin's sponsor, Bridgeport Centennial Incorporated.
Based on its Committee's recommendations, the House revised the bill's mintage figure from "not more than ten thousand" to "not less than 25,000." The House also removed the bill's language that enabled the coin's sponsor to request the coin in groups of as low as 5,000 over just a one-year period. By removing the language, the House's revision ensured that the minimum mintage of 25,000 would be struck and delivered in one batch, but it also opened up a potential loop hole regarding when the coin could be struck. Essentially, the bill's revised language would have allowed for a multi-year program to have been created if the sponsor believed sales so justified (as long as they ordered 25,000 each time/year).
The bill was signed into law on May 15, 1936 by President Roosevelt, but the Mint was not able to strike the coins until September; as would be expected, it struck all 25,000 coins that were authorized plus 15 additional reserved for assay. By the time it delivered them to the sponsor, the centennial celebrations were mostly over as the primary events took place in the June through September time frame. Despite this, coin sales proceeded at a good pace. In fact, W. B. Aurandt, the Managing Director of Bridgeport Centennial. Inc. reported in the November 1936 issue of The Numismatist
, that sales had reached 18,000 coins and that "demand is continuing to be evident both from local and out-of-town reservations."
Fortunately, the Bridgeport Centennial group was not interested in a multi-year coin program and announced publicly that they would limit the coin's mintage to 25,000 and would not place additional orders.
In the end, all of the 25,000 coins provided to Bridgeport Centennial, Inc. were sold/distributed by it - none were returned to the Mint to be melted. The vast majority of the coins were sold to collectors for $2.00 each, though a few thousand were later sold to the Community Chest and Council of Bridgeport. The Community Chest (the forerunner of today's United Way) announced in 1938 that it had purchased surplus coins from the Centennial group and that it planned to offer them for sale, presumably as a fundraiser for its charity efforts. It later sold many of the coins in bulk lots to dealers for a small advance over face value.
I'm sure the Bridgeport team was thankful they caught the commemorative wave before it crashed! Otherwise, sales of their coin would likely have gone much more slowly and proven to be much more difficult.
Here's my example:
I will say one thing for Henry Kreiss, the coin's designer, he did not let the coin's mandated inscriptions intrude into his overall design. The mottoes "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum" and "Liberty" were all positioned in small letters in the lower right of the reverse - out of the way and nicely opening up the rest of the coin's surface areas for the design.