A silver commemorative coin was authorized to mark the 350th anniversary of the establishment of Roanoke Colony. This early attempt to establish a permanent English settlement in America became known as the Lost Colony when all of the inhabitants mysteriously vanished.
The obverse of the 1937 Roanoke Half Dollar features a profile portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh, who had been granted the charter for colonization by Queen Elizabeth I. The inscriptions read “United States of America”, “E Pluribus Unum”, “Liberty”, “1937”, “Sir Walter Raleigh”, and “Half Dollar”.
On the reverse is an image of Ellinore Dare and her child Virginia Dare, who was the first child born in America to English parents. To each side are sailing ships and below is a pine branch. The surrounding inscriptions read “The Colonization of Roanoke Island North Carolina”, “The Birth of Virginia Dare”, “In God We Trust”, and the anniversary dates “1587-1937”.
The coins were designed by William Marks Simpson, who had also designed the Antietam Half Dollar and the Norfolk Half Dollar with his wife.
Under the authorizing legislation, the Roanoke Half Dollars had a minimum mintage of 25,000 pieces and no established maximum. A total of 50,000 pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in two batches. The coins were distributed through the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association of Manteo at an issue price of $1.65. Although sales levels exceeded the number of coins sold for other recent issues, eventually a large portion of the production was returned for melting, resulting in net distribution of 29,030.
The Roanoke Half Dollars remain a readily available issue of the early commemorative series, with pieces available though gem grades and higher at reasonable prices.
Roanoke Half Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: William Marks Simpson
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 12.50 grams
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Authorization: Public Law 74-790
Maximum Authorized Mintage: none (minimum 25,000)
Roanoke Half Dollar Mintage