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HomeUS Coins1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar : A Collector's Guide

1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar graded PCGS MS66+. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).
1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar graded PCGS MS66+. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar was struck to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of British Captain James Cook’s discovery of the Hawaiian Islands (the natives were obviously well aware of its existence).

The coin was designed by Honolulu-born painter Juliette May Fraser and engraved by the sculptor Chester Beach. The obverse features James Cook. The reverse depicts a Hawaiian warrior standing on a cliffside overlooking the famous Hawaiian landmark known as Diamond Head. Eight triangles on the obverse represent the eight islands. A ship’s needle is on the left. Beach’s initials, CB, also appear on the obverse.

The Philadelphia Mint struck the entire mintage of 10,008 pieces in June 1928. Half of the mintage was shipped to Hawaii, with the remainder distributed on the mainland of the United States. Two hundred specimens were held back as special presentation pieces.

A five-coin order limit was placed on distribution.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Many of the Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollars were mishandled. Captain Cook’s cheekbone and fingers are two places that are first to show wear. Approximately 1,500 coins were never offered for sale during the initial offering. Because of its scarcity in the secondary market (especially on the mainland), the Hawaiian Sesquicentennial commemorative was counterfeited. Oddly, there are counterfeits with Prooflike and Sandblasted appearances, even though no genuine PLs exist. Fake Sandblasts are said to have a yellow tint.

Coin dealer William Rabin offered examples for $12.50 USD each in his May 1936 Numismatist ad. Only the Pan-Pac 50¢ cost more ($15) in this ad.

At the same time, Tatham Coin Co. of Springfield, Massachusetts, offered the coin for $11.

According to dealer Abe Kosoff, Chicago coin collector J. Henri Ripstra nearly cornered the 1928 Hawaii Sesquicentennial half-dollar market, offering the dealer 800 pieces for $20 each.

By 1964, the coin was selling for $600 each.

Top Population: PCGS MS67+ (4, 4/2024). NGC MS67 (6, 4/2024), and CAC MS67 (4:0, stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS MS67+ #44627525: As PCGS MS67 CAC #44627525. Stack’s Bowers, August 24, 2022, Lot 7230 – $96,000. Vivid rainbow toning on both sides. Thin hit on the cheek and vertical hit on the jawline. On the reverse, there is a small carbon spot above B in PLURIBUS. Scattered hits on Hawaii. Since this sale, the coin has been upgraded to MS67+, but kept the same certification number. 
  • PCGS MS67 CAC #45371756: GreatCollections, September 18, 2022, Lot 1146249 – View. Scattered gold toning.
  • PCGS MS67 CAC #44962066: “Gregg Bingham Collection of Silver Commemoratives,” GreatCollections, June 19, 2022, Lot 1157968 – View. Vivid gold toning with dark rims. 
  • PCGS MS67 CAC #82245086: Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2017, Lot 6112 – $39,950. Dark gold and russet toning are on both the obverse and reverse. 
  • NGC MS67 #4215058-001: As NGC MS66* #3312683-002. Heritage Auctions, August 11, 2011, Lot 4980 – $9,200. As NGC MS67 #4215058-001. Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2015, Lot 4536 – $17,625. Upgraded one point. Lost * designation. Pastel gold, yellow, and purple toning on both sides. 
  • NGC MS67 #3273759-006: Heritage Auctions, February 4, 2011, Lot 4081 – $33,350; Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 4448 – $30,550. Brilliant.
  • PCGS MS67 #21765014: “The Bruce Scher Collection,” Heritage Auctions, February 24, 2005, Lot 4158 – $46,000. Bruce Scher on insert. The top pop, pop one coin when sold. “The Cary & Cheryl Porter Collection”, Heritage Auctions, May 10, 2007, Lot 2529 – $54,625. Gold rim toning.
  • PCGS MS66+ CAC #83556945: Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2017, Lot 4889 – $12,925; “The Five Generations of Eby Collection”, Heritage Auctions, January 11, 2019, Lot $7,800.
  • PCGS MS66+ CAC #25235495: Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 4447 – $13,218.75; Stack’s Bowers, August 2015, Lot 10290 – $9,987.50. Gold and russet rim toning on the obverse and gold, russet, and blue toning on the reverse. Small hits across the cheek. Tick to the upper right of the compass—vertical scratch above the shoulder. Rim hit in wig. 

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1928
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 10,008
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 12.5 g
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Juliette May Fraser | Chester Beach
REV Designer: Juliette May Fraser | Chester Beach
Quality: Business Strike

 

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1928 Proof Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar

1928 Proof Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar. Image: NGC / Adobe Stock.
1928 Proof Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar. Image: NGC / Adobe Stock.

The Philadelphia Mint struck 50 sandblast Proof Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollars. The coins were distributed to various VIPs and organizations.

Individuals receiving a sandblast Proof (emboldened names represent coins in the numismatic market with confirmed pedigrees).

  1. Edgar Henriques, Executive Secretary
  2. Bruce Cartwright, Commissioner
  3. Dr. Alber E. Gregory, Commissioner (PCGS PR63 #48845289)
  4. Bishop H.B. Restarick, Commissioner
  5. Col C.P. Iaukea, Commissioner
  6. Professor Ralph S. Kuykendall
  7. Juliett Mae Fraser
  8. Honorable Wallace R. Farrington
  9. Marie von Holt
  10. [one missing from top 10, 11-50 listed in the correct order]
  11. Hawaiian Historical Society
  12. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
  13. Hon. Gerald H. Phipps
  14. Archives of Hawaii
  15. B.C. Stewart
  16. United States National Museum
  17. British Admiralty
  18. Rt. Hon. S.M. Bruce
  19. Hon. T.R. Bavin
  20. British Museum
  21. President Calvin Coolidge (PCGS PR64 CAC)
  22. King George V of England
  23. Lord Sandwich
  24. Secretary of the Treasury Mellon
  25. Rear-Admiral George S. Marvell, U.S.N.
  26. Major General Fox Conner, U.S.A.
  27. American Numismatic Association
  28. Capt. Leveson-Gower, R.N. D.S.O.
  29. Capt Gerald Cartwell Harrison
  30. Commodore Swabey
  31. Capt. John Greenslade
  32. Hon. Dwight Davis, Secretary of War, U.S.A
  33. Sir Joseph Carruthers
  34. Sir Henry Newbolt
  35. Prof. Frank A. Golder
  36. Judge F.W. Howay
  37. Verne Blue
  38. Kauai Historical Society
  39. James A. Wilder
  40. Hon. Lawrence N. Judd, grandson of Dr. Gerrit P. Judge, early settler and Albert Francis Judd, Chief Justice of the Hawaiian Supreme Court during the reigns of Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani (PCGS PR61)
  41. Mr. Theodore B. Pitman
  42. Dr. Peter H. Buck
  43. Hon. Maurice Cohen
  44. Rt. Hon J.G. Coates
  45. National Museum Wellington, New Zealand
  46. Hon. John C. Lane
  47. American Numismatic Society
  48. Edward L. Caum, Honolulu resident (PCGS PR64)
  49. J. Frank Woods
  50. Hon Victor S.K. Houston

Houston was heavily involved in the design process, writing a series of demands regarding the coconut palm and the chieftain’s anklet and cape design. Letters to this effect were contained in Beach’s personal files and auctioned by Bowers & Merena at their 2009 Philadelphia Americana Sale (Lot 4499).

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The NGC and PCGS census tables report 36 grading events combined. We have no confidence that this data represents discreet coins or that the services have seen more than half of the 50 coins reportedly struck for this issue.

Of all the coins listed in our table below, only three have trackable certification numbers that are still active, and at the time of this writing, PCGS CoinFacts does not show plate coins for the issue. NGC has a high-resolution image of a coin that we do not believe checks against the coins on our table. This may be one of the Proof 66 coins in their census.

PCGS CoinFacts’ auction database reports a pair of NGC PF66 transactions in 2006. We do not, at present, have access to the Bowers & Merena catalog for that sale, but we suspect these two sales were for the same coin. It is not unusual for a consignor to protect a valuable coin and then try again later if the listing doesn’t work out in their favor.

An NGC PF65 sold in September 2008 at Bowers & Merena for a record $86,250. We have not seen the coin and do not know whether it was the same one Heritage sold in 1993 for $25,300. NGC currently reports four coins at PF65, but it is safe to assume that the population figures were far different 30 years ago.

As unsatisfactory as it is, the 1928 Proof Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar is opaque and confusing, made even more so by the number of likely resubmissions and crossovers.

Top Population: PCGS PF64 (7, 4/2024). NGC PF66 (5, 4/2024), and CAC PR64 (1:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS PR65: Heritage Auctions, July 30, 1993, Lot 7510 – $25,300. No image or certification number.
  • PCGS PR64 CAC #50152096: Calvin Coolidge; John Coolidge; French’s, November 1973, Lot 108 – $2,800; Private Collector; Superior, January 1979, Lot 1087; Stack’s, July 1979, Lot 673; As PCGS PR64 #03759255. “Richard Leichtung Collection”, Heritage Auctions, January 12, 2002, Lot 8752 – $33,350. Coolidge on insert; PCGS PR64 #21672091. “The JFS Collection, Part Two,” Heritage Auctions, August 18, 2004, Lot 4270 – $25,300. Regraded. Coolidge pedigree removed! JFS Collection on insert. As PCGS PR64 CAC #50152096. Heritage Auctions, January 21, 2021, Lot 4128 – $60,000. Regraded. Coolidge back on insert. Reportedly, the 21st Proof struck.
  • PCGS PR64 #8329102: Heritage Auctions, February 20, 2020, Lot 3436 – $52,200.
  • NGC PF64 #1786403-002: As NGC PF64 #284405-002. Heritage Auctions, August 11, 2001, Lot 8532 – $18,400; As NGC PF64 #284405-002. Heritage Auctions, January 12, 2005, Lot 30598 – $18,400. Certification number no longer active. Numerous rim dings on the obverse. Toned.
  • NGC PF64 #1633881-001: Heritage Auctions, July 27, 2002, Lot 5334 – $18,000 Reserve Not Met. Certification number no longer active.
  • As NGC PF64 #284405-002. Heritage Auctions, August 11, 2001, Lot 8532 – $18,400. Certification number no longer active.
  • PCGS PR64: Edward L. Caum; “Wes Rasmussen Sale,” Superior 1998, Lot 3071 – $24,000; Heritage Auctions, February 11, 2000, Lot 5769 – $21,850.
  • PCGS PR63 CMQ #48845289: Dr. Herbert E. Gregory, Captain Cook Sesquicentennial Commission member, January 3, 1938; K.G. Schram; As PCGS PR63 CMQ #48845289. Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4402 – View. Heavily spotted.
  • PCGS PR63 #5796853: John Dean Coin Co., 1972; Chattanooga Coin Company, 1973; Chattanooga Coin Company to James N. Anthony, via private treaty sale; Heritage Auctions, November 17, 2000, Lot 6196 – $15,525; Heritage Auctions, October 25, 2006, Lot 1798 – $21,850. Tick below A of STATES.
  • NGC PF63: As “PR60 Cleaned Uncertified”, Heritage Auctions, July 27, 2002, Lot 5333 – $7,762; As NGC PF63. Stack’s Bowers, March 14, 2006, Lot 2076 – $18,400. Pewter and mustard yellow hue.
  • NGC PF63 #1633636-001: Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2004, Lot 3003 – $13,225. Certification number no longer active. 
  • PCGS PR62: Goldberg Auctioneers, February 19, 2002, Lot 1658 – $12,650. Splotchy dark lilac grey toning dominates the upper right quadrant of the coin’s obverse. Scattered goldenrod toning throughout the obverse and reverse.
  • PCGS PR61 #6571519: Lawrence McCully Judd; Judd’s Estate to Craig Watanable, via private treaty sale; Heritage Auctions, August 13, 1999, Lot 7566 – $17,250. Certification number no longer active. 

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1928
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 50
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 12.5 g
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Juliette Mae Fraser | Chester Beach
REV Designer: Juliette Mae Fraser | Chester Beach
Quality: Proof

 

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Sources

Kosoff, Abe. Abe Kosoff Remembers. Sanford J. Durst. (1981)

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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