Each of the previous three coins that I discussed in this "Into the Melting Pot" series returned 1 million or more unsold coins to the Mint to be melted. The next coin on my list is also a "Millionaire" - the 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar.As I note at the start of each of these "Melting Pot" posts, I've written multiple times about the subject coins - this time the Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar - and prefer not to repeat too much of those previous posts here, so check out the links below for my previous posts on the topic coin which provide more details about the Memorial, the coin itself and the involvement of the US Congress in its creation.
The legislation that authorized the Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar (Public Law 68-46; March 17, 1924) called for up to 5 million coins to be struck for the benefit of the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association of Atlanta, Georgia. The half dollar was one of just four US commemorative coins to be authorized for such a large mintage in the classic series (the World's Columbian Exposition, the Oregon Trail Memorial and the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial half dollars also had authorized mintages of 5 million coins (6 million in the case of the Oregon Trail coin!)).
The US Mint struck an initial batch of 476,256 Stone Mountain half dollars in January 1925; before the year was concluded, it would strike a total of 2,314,709 of the coins (including 4,709 for assay). However, the Monumental Association was never able to generate a sales volume that required the minting of its full authorized allotment of 5 million coins.
The Association tried many ways to promote its coin and raise funds for the Memorial via its sale, including holding contests and auctions involving counterstamped versions of the coin and bulk sales to corporations/organizations (e.g., various southern banks, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Atlanta, the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad and the Southern Fireman's Fund Insurance Company), that they, in turn, could use as promotional giveaways and/or fundraising pieces. (See Commems Collection
After "the moment had passed" and coin sales had slowed to a trickle, the Association was forced to return 1 million of its commemorative coins to the Mint to be melted; the melt total is ~43% of the coins struck. In addition, more than 100,000 of the coins were released into circulation at face value by the Association. (It's also likely that a sizable portion of the coins used as promotional pieces by the companies referenced above wound up in circulation after being given out.) In terms of net distribution, about 1.3 million Stone Mountain half dollars made it into the hands of collectors, souvenir seekers, speculators, etc. This was about half (~56%) of the total coins struck and just over one-quarter (~26%) of the coins authorized.
When were the coins melted? Based on reports given by the Treasury/US Mint during Hearings for various commemorative coin bills, years passed before the coins were returned and melted.
As of February 1927, the Mint reported that it had not received any Stone Mountain half dollars as returns. By April 1930, it appears the Mint had a "heads up" on potential returns as it reported that while it had not yet received any returned coins, it was aware that large numbers of Stone Mountain half dollars were sitting unsold in bank vaults.
Several years later, in March 1936, the Mint reported that 1 million Stone Mountain half dollars had been returned, but not yet melted (no specific date was given). A year later, in April 1937, 500,000 of the returned coins were reported as melted. Years later, in April 1948, the Mint stated that 1,000,000 Stone Mountain half dollars had been melted. As this number matched the number of coins originally returned by the Association, it appears that between 1937 and 1948, the Mint melted the last of the Stone Mountain coins it had received.
As I've said previously, while its hard to fault an organization for selling/distributing more than a million coins, when a sales target is missed by as much as the Monumental Association missed its target for the Stone Mountain half dollar, labels of "failure" are inevitable. Failure or not, the Stone Mountain Half Dollar, in mint state and circulated grades, is an easy find in the marketplace. I still have my first Stone Mountain half - it started me on my US commemorative coin journey!1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more on the Stone Mountain half dollar, see: Commems Collection.
For a look at my first Stone Mountain half dollar, and the special holder I keep it in, see:
- 1925 Stone Mountain Revisited #2
For a list of posts specifically about the Design Details of the 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar, see:
- Design Discussions - 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial