In 1920, the United States Bureau of the Mint struck a commemorative silver coin that celebrated the 100th anniversary of Maine joining the Union and officially becoming a state. Fast-forward 100 years, we are now celebrating the 200th anniversary of Maine joining the union and the 100th anniversary of the release of this special half dollar coin.
Originally, there were 50,028 pieces minted. 50,000 pieces for the public and 28 pieces for inspection and testing at the Assay Commission. Today, a little more than half exist with 27,500 across all grades. 19,000 are in Uncirculated condition and 5,900 are graded at MS65 or better.
The obverse of the coin depicts the arms of Maine. It features a shield with a pine tree that sits below the surfaces of the coin. There is also a moose, and two men: one that carries a scythe depicting Agriculture, and the other that leans on an anchor which represents Commerce. Below this is a scroll with the state’s name. Above the shield is the state’s motto: “DIRIGO”, which means “I direct”, followed by a star at the top. Surrounding the coin is the “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, & “HALF DOLLAR” that is expected on all U.S. half-dollar coins.
The reverse features a simple design of a wreath surrounding the following: “MAINE CENTENNIAL 1820-1920”. Surrounding the wreath is the standard phrases that are required on all American Coinage. The Commission of Fine Arts cited several issues with the designs of this coin with the general one being the design was too ordinary. The obverse is simply the coat of arms of Maine, and the reverse only features a wreath and some basic text. The Commission stated that the designs would “bring humiliation to the people of Maine.” However, the sculptor, Anthony de Francisci, ultimately went through with the design when he got the go-ahead from Maine officials.
The state of Maine had hoped that these coins would be available for the celebration on July 4th, 1920 in Portland, Maine. But, because of the design controversy, the coins were released in the late summer.
Today, most coins show the effects of careless handling. This is because few of the coins were sold to the coin collecting community. According to Richard S. Yeoman’s “A Guidebook of United States Coins” lists the coin from $140 to $685 with an outstanding piece that sold for $7,050 in 2014.