The opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was commemorated with the issuance of a silver half dollar. Commonly referred to as the Bay Bridge Half Dollar, the issue proved to be one of the most popular from the plethora of commemorative coins released during the same year.
The coins were designed by San Francisco artist Jacques Schnier. The obverse features a grizzly bear, as a symbol of California, in three-quarter view. The inscriptions read “United States of America”, “In God We Trust”, “Liberty”, and “Half Dollar”. The reverse design depicts the Bay Bridge, with Ferry Tower in the foreground, Yerba Buena Island and East Bay Hills in the distance. The design is intriguing in the virtual lack of any completely smooth fields. Both the water and sky are presented in a modernistic pattern. Inscriptions read “San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge” and “1936”.
The maximum authorized mintage for the issue was 200,000 pieces. The Coin Committee of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Celebration ordered 100,000 coins and indicated that it was their intention to only issue this amount. Coins were struck at the San Francisco Mint.
Sales took place at a cost of $1.50 per coin by mail and through the booths at the bridge entrances where people could drive-up to buy the coins.In 1937, sales were ended and an unsold quantity of 28,631 coins were melted. This resulted in a net distribution of 71,424 pieces for the 1936 Bay Bridge Half Dollar.
Because of the unique design, the obverse is more prone to displaying contact marks and abrasions. The complex and intricate design of the reverse tends to protect or obscure any such marks. The issue remains readily available for present day collectors, affordable through gem grades.
Bay Bridge Half Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Jacques Schnier
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 12.50 grams
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Authorization: Public Law 74-820
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 200,000
Bay Bridge Half Dollar Mintage