1921 Alabama Centennial Half Dollar
Mintage*: 54,030 (plain), 15,014 (2x2)
Distribution*: 49,030 (plain), 15,014 (2x2)
Weight: 12.5 grams
Designer: Laura Gardin Fraser / Marie Bankhead Owen
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the admission of Alabama into the United States, the Alabama Centennial Commission suggested minting a commemorative quarter. This was changed to a half dollar coin and the committee began taking proposals for the design. In the end, the committee was unsatisfied with all of the designs and chose to come up with an original design. They suggested that the obverse show busts of James Monroe, the President at the time of Alabama’s statehood, and Woodrow Wilson, the president at the time, and the reverse show the Capitol on Capitol Hill. Laura Gardin Fraser did not approve the design, as she felt building were not appropriate on coins. Marie Bankhead Owen recommended that the obverse show the state seal, rather than the capitol, and this design was approved.
However, by the time this design was completed, Warren G. Harding was elected President. At the time, the South was overwhelming Democratic and objected to the idea of a Republican on their centennial coin. The design was revised yet again. The portraits of Wilson and Monroe were replaced with busts of William Wyatt Bibb, the first governor of Alabama, and Thomas E. Kilby, the governor at the time of the Centennial. This was actually against federal law at the time, which prohibited the portrayal of living persons on US coins. Despite this, the design was approved and Laura Gardin Fraser who chosen to make the models by her husband, who was a member of the Fine Arts Commission.
The obverse also features 22 stars around the portraits, which are meant to signify Alabama’s status as the 22nd state. This is also the reason for the 2X2 inscription. The number 22 is divided by a Saint Andrew’s cross, which is also on the Alabama flag. The obverse shows 1921, the date of striking, which was required to appear on all coins. The dates of the centennial are displayed on the reverse along with the seal.
Although a mintage of 100,000 coins was authorized, fewer were struck and some were returned for melting. The centennial celebration was over before the coins were ready for sale, so all proceeds were saved for future projects. Only 59,038 of the plain and 6,006 of the 2X2 coins survived. These coins are weakly struck and difficult to find in high grades.
* Other sources list the mintage and distribution of the plain coins as 64,038 and 59,000, respectively.
If you are interesting in acquiring a 1921 Alabama Centennial Half Dollar for your collection in any grade, contact us at 281.548.1515 or E-Mail us for pricing, coin conditions, and additional information.