Commemorative coins were authorized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the admission of Arkansas into the Union. The Arkansas Centennial Half Dollars ended up being issued during five separate years, across three different mints. The coins became controversial due to the stream of variations created specifically to market to collectors, as well as the escalating issue prices as mintage for later issues became smaller.
The obverse design features the head of Liberty and a Native American in headdress. The centennial dates “1836” and “1936” appear, along with the inscription “Arkansas Centennial” below and “Liberty” on Liberty’s cap. Although this is now considered to be the obverse of the coin, there was initially some confusion and US Mint records and some references refer to this side as the reverse. In 1936, a new design was issued for this side of the coin, featuring a Senator who was living at the time of issue. The 1936 Robinson-Arkansas Half Dollar is considered a separate issue by most collectors.
The reverse of the coin features the image of an eagle with wings spread, perched on the rising sun with rays emanating upwards. In the background a geometrical shape appears with the word “Arkansas” at center, amidst an arrangement of stars. The further inscriptions read “United States of America”, “In God We Trust”, “E Pluribus Unum”, “Half Dollar”, and the date of issue. Both the obverse and reverse design designed by Edward Everett Burr, following models prepared by Emily Bates.
At the onset, the Arkansas Half Dollar was struck in a modest quantity of 13,012 pieces at the Philadelphia Mint with an additional 5,505 from Denver and 5,506 from San Francisco. The Philadelphia issues were sold at an issue price of $1 each, while the mint marked coins were purchased in a bulk transaction by a coin dealer and subsequently sold for $2.75 each. This initial situation was a taste of things to come.
In the following year, coins from three different mints were initially offered for $1 each, but the price was quickly raised to $1.50 per coin, and eventually sold as sets of three coins for $6.75. The following year three coin sets were sold at $8.75, which was eventually raised to $10. This would also be the price of the 1939 sets.
From the maximum authorized mintage of 500,000 coins, eventually there were 85,302 of the Arkansas Centennial Half Dollars sold across all years and mints. The centennial had been celebrated for a five year period including one year prior to the actual anniversary date.
Arkansas Centennial Half Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Edward Everett Burr
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 12.50 grams
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Authorization: Public Law 73-225
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 500,000
Arkansas Centennial Half Dollar Mintages