From the October 2006 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:
Classic Commemorative... Stamps??
By Mike Nourse
Yes, stamps. We all are familiar with the classic commemorative coin series that began with the World's Columbian Exposition in 1892 and ended 62 years later with the final George Washington Carver / Booker T. Washington issue of 1954. But while the Mint was cranking out this series of commemorative coins, the U. S. Post Office was busy commemorating many of the same events and anniversaries. Combined together, the stamps and coins from this era would make a fascinating display.
Scott 234 Five Cent Stamp issued 1892.
Columbus Soliciting aid from Queen Isabella.
The correlation between the commemorative coins and stamps starts right at the beginning with the Columbian Exposition issues. In the coin department, we have the Columbian half dollar issues of 1892 and 1893 plus the Isabella quarter of 1893. The Post Office was much more ambitious, cranking out sixteen denominations of stamps in 1893, all with different designs. The designs on the stamps are much more detailed and complex than the relatively simple designs seen on the quarter and halves. The half dollars are abundant and can be purchased easily for $20 or less. The Isabella quarter is a much scarcer item which will drain about $500 from your bank account. As for the stamps, the one and two cent denominations cost under a dollar each in used condition and half of the sixteen piece set is available for under $20 each. The complete set of Columbian Exposition stamps will cost a bundle with two of them in the $500 range and three others around the $1000 mark in used condition.
Scott 233 Four Cent Stamp issued 1892.
Fleet of Columbus.
Scott 324 Two Cent Stamp issued 1904.
The ultimate coin - stamp commemorative set came on the scene in the mid 1910's for the 1915 San Francisco Panama Pacific Exposition. The coins are a truly impressive set of one silver half dollar, a gold dollar, a gold $2.50 quarter eagle, and two amazing $50 gold coins. The stamps returned to more interesting designs showing scenes from the construction of the Panama Canal. Four stamps were issued, and the full set of four can be had for a mere $30 or so. As for the coins, if you have to ask how much they cost, you can not afford them.
Scott 398 Two Cent Stamp issued 1913 to 1915.
The Panama Canal.
At long last, in 1920 a very affordable coin and stamp set came out in the form of the Pilgrim Tercentenary commemoratives. In the coin arena, a single, affordable half dollar was produced by the Mint along with three inexpensive stamps put out by the Post Office. The half dollars as well as the stamps are all reasonably attractive and contain relevant designs. The full coin and stamp set will run a total of about $100.
Scott 548 One Cent Stamp Issued 1920.
The next time that stamps and coins commemorated the same event occurred four years later with the Huguenot - Walloon Tercentenary. This is another affordable set with a single half dollar and three interesting stamps, all of which can be purchased for around $150. If you only want one of the three stamps, choose the one cent denomination which features a depiction of the ship Nieuw Nederland, the same ship seen on the reverse of the half dollar.
Scott 614 One Cent Stamp issued 1924.
The Nieuw Nederland.
It would only be a one year wait until the next coin and stamp pairing would occur, in the form of the Lexington Concord Sesquicentennial. Again there was one coin and three stamps, and again the full set is in the affordable category at a total of about $100. The stamps are all attractive, but in this case the five cent denomination is the most relevant, showing a minute man which very closely resembles the one seen on the silver half dollar.
Scott 619 Five Cent Stamp issued 1925.
Lexington Concord Minute Man.
The stamps continued to dwindle, from the huge and expensive sixteen piece set that came out during the Columbian Exposition down now to just a single stamp issued for the Sesquicentennial of American Independence in 1926. Fear not, the Post Office went hog wild fifty years later, cranking out a riot of stamps to commemorate the 1976 Bicentennial year. At least the single stamp issued in the sesquicentennial year of 1926 has an attractive depiction of the Liberty Bell which is also seen on the reverse of the half dollar. The stamp, even in new unused condition, only sells for around $3, leaving plenty of spare cash left over to pay for the $75 half dollar.
Scott 627 Two Cent Stamp issued 1926.
Sesquicentennial Exposition Liberty Bell.
The same thing happened next year in 1927, the year of the Vermont Sesquicentennial. Unfortunately, in this case the stamp is smaller and does not have an especially inspiring design, but it will only cost a dollar or so. The half dollar could almost better be called the University of Vermont commemorative as Ira Allen started the University and the catamount on the reverse is the University's mascot. This half is a bit more expensive than the last few at close to $200.
Scott 643 Two Cent Stamp issued 1927.
A unique situation occurred the following year for the 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial. The stamps issued to commemorate Captain Cook's arrival in Hawaii do not actually have anything to do with Captain Cook or Hawaii! All the Hawaiian commemorative stamps consist of is a two cent stamp featuring George Washington and a five cent stamp featuring Teddy Roosevelt, both overprinted with the word Hawaii. The creative juices just were not flowing this year! And Hawaii is a topic that certainly lends itself to a beautiful multi - stamp pictorial issue. The most pathetic stamp commemoratives we will look at will cost about $15 used or $20 new. The Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half dollar did a bit better with Captain Cook on the obverse and a Hawaiian chief on the reverse. The bad news is... the Hawaiian half is the most expensive commemorative half dollar of the whole classic commemorative coin series, which will set you back about $1500.
After 1928, there would be no more classic commemorative coins until the Maryland Tercentenary half dollar of 1934. Again just a single stamp was issued for the event, a smaller stamp with a picture of the ships Ark and Dove which brought colonists to the state 300 years previous. The half dollar should cost no more than $150 with the stamp costing a whopping 25 cents or so. Also in 1934 was the beginning of a series of twelve halves commemorating the centennial of Texas Independence. A single stamp was produced which features Sam Houston and Stephen Austin over the Alamo, all items which can also be found on the complex reverse of the half dollar. The half runs just over $100 and the stamp a nominal 25 cents.
Scott 736 Three Cent Stamp issued 1934.
Maryland Settlers ships the Ark and Dove.
Another event was deemed worthy of commemoration both by the Mint and the Post Office in 1935. The California Pacific Exposition in San Diego was also honored on a half dollar and a single stamp. Both have reasonably decent designs, and neither is particularly expensive at $75 and 25 cents respectively. The year 1935 was also the first of five years of Arkansas Centennial half dollars. Neither the half dollar nor the single stamp sport a particularly memorable design. The pair cost just about the same as the previously mentioned California Pacific coin and stamp set.
Scott 773 Three Cent Stamp issued 1935.
California Pacific International Exposition.
Classic commemorative coin collectors know 1936 as a year of numerous abuses of the commemorative coin program. Of the fifteen new issues created that year, thirteen commemorated cities and two celebrated state anniversaries. Of the two state anniversaries, Wisconsin and Delaware, only the Wisconsin Territory Centennial was also honored by the Post Office with a single attractive and inexpensive issue. Only one of the city based 1936 half dollars saw a stamp issue as well - the Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary. However, the stamp was issued as a state of Rhode Island Tercentenary commemorative rather than just a Providence commemorative. Close enough for me to consider them as a true coin and stamp commemorative pair. The founder of Providence, Roger Williams, appears on both the half dollar and the stamp. Both the Wisconsin and Rhode Island stamps cost well under a dollar while the Providence coin will run $75 and the Wisconsin coin a more spendy $200.
Scott 777 Three Cent Stamp issued 1936.
Roger Williams and the Rhode Island Tercentenary.
The final commemorative coin and stamp set that can be assembled came 10 years later with the 1946 Iowa Statehood Centennial. The stamp is not impressive, merely showing the state flag. The coin is not a whole lot better, but at least neither is particularly expensive with the half at $85 and the stamp only a quarter.
Scott 942 Three Cent Stamp issued 1946.
Iowa Statehood Centennial.
Numerous other connections can be drawn between stamps and commemorative coins, as many of the people found on the coins have also been seen on stamps at one time or another. I only focused on events and anniversaries that occurred in specific years. This gives a starting point on a great coin and stamp display for the next coin show!
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