Bridgeport, Connecticut, Centennial half dollar
The Bridgeport, Connecticut, Centennial half dollar is a commemorative fifty-cent piece issued in 1936 by the United States Bureau of the Mint. Designed by Henry Kreis, the obverse depicts the showman P. T. Barnum, who was one of Bridgeport’s most famous residents, was mayor of the city, helped develop it, and is buried there. The reverse depicts a stylized eagle.
About Bridgeport, Connecticut, Centennial half dollar in brief
The Bridgeport, Connecticut, Centennial half dollar is a commemorative fifty-cent piece issued in 1936 by the United States Bureau of the Mint. Designed by Henry Kreis, the obverse depicts the showman P. T. Barnum, who was one of Bridgeport’s most famous residents, was mayor of the city, helped develop it, and is buried there. The reverse depicts a stylized eagle. The coins were vended to the public beginning in September 1936 at a price of USD 2. Too late for most of the centennial celebrations, the coins nevertheless sold well, though leaving an unsold remainder of several thousand pieces. These were bought up by coin dealers and wholesale quantities were available on the secondary market until the 1970s. The Bridgeport half dollar sells in the low hundreds of dollars, depending on condition. The entire mintage of each commemorative coin issues issue was sold by the government at face value to a group named by Congress in authorizing legislation, who then tried to sell the coins at a profit. The apparent easy profits to be made by purchasing and holding commemoratives attracted many to the coin collecting hobby, where they sought to purchase the new issues. The growing market for such pieces led to many commemorative Coin proposals in Congress, to mark anniversaries and benefit worthy causes, including some of purely local significance.
Among these were the Bridgeport piece, intended to fund local celebrations of the City’s centennial; the designated group was Bridgeport Centennial, Inc. They would have to be dated to 1936, and no fewer than 5,000 could be made at a time. There would be a limit of 10,000 coins to be struck at a mint; there could only be one mint, though with extensive amendments to the bill, so that only one group could do so. On March 26, 1936, the organization designated to purchase coins had to do so, and net proceeds from the sale of the coins were used to purchase 26,000 new Bridgeport coins for the Centennial Centennial celebrations. The issue was struck at the same mint as the Connecticut Tercentenary half dollar, and he produced designs showing a left-facing Barnum and a modernistic eagle similar to the one on the Connecticut piece. Other issues had been issued over the course of years with different mints and dates, and some low-mintage varieties were selling at high prices for some varieties of commemorative coins. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus survived until 2017, and was founded in Bridgeport in 1739. Elias Howe, inventor of the modern sewing machine, built a factory there, and served in the Connecticut Legislature, and died in 1836. The bill was introduced by Augustine Lonergan of Connecticut on March 10, 1936.