Squatting on obverse is a gold miner with a pan, inspecting gravel from a stream for possible gold flakes or nuggets a method in use since remote antiquity and usual among the forty-niners. The DIAMOND JUBILEE 1925 inscription refers to the 75th anniversary of California's admission into the Union as a state, September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850. On reverse, the grizzly bear represents the California Republic's bear flag under General John C. Fremont, 1846-1850 said to symbolize strength and independence.
The San Francisco Citizens' Committee wanted souvenir coins for a celebration fondly hoped to be at least as important as the Monroe Doctrine or Pan Pacific. Senator Samuel Morgan Shortridge and Rep. John Raker pushed the authorizing bill, but Rep. Albert H. Vestal of the House Coinage Committee was against any further commemorative acts. When the Vermont senators pushed a bill to authorize such coinage for the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, a cause dear to President Coolidge's heart, Rep. Raker offered and amendment, February 16, 1925, to authorize the California Jubilee coin. This was passed, the amended bill eventually becoming the Act of February 24, 1925.
Jo Mora, local sculptor commissioned by the Citizen's Committee, which appears to have chosen the actual designs.
Chairman Rossi sent Mora's initial sketches on May 4, 1925 to Mint Director Grant, who forwarded them to the Federal Commission of Fine Arts on May 8. Despite disapproval by James Earle Fraser (who recommended firing Mora as "inexperienced and amateurish"), Mora's finished design was eventually approved, June 20, probably for lack of time to hire either Robert Aitken or Chester Beach (Fraser's choices), not to mention the much greater cost of their fees. The grizzly bear came under especially strong criticism because its trunk was disproportionately short in relation to its leg length.
The Mint made the necessary reductions of the models to half dollar size and prepared working dies during July; these went to San Francisco (the mintmark S is at bottom of revers) where 150,000 coins were struck between August 1 and 26, 1925. The San Francisco Clearing House Association and its sister in Los Angeles offered the coins to the public at $1 apiece. We know that the first batch left the Mint not later than August 26 because a specimen was exhibited on that date at a meeting of the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society.
Despite all the high hopes, however, the Citizen's Committee was unable to sell even the entirety of the first batch, and no more were ordered. A small number went in holders to which were attached red, yellow and green ribbons, similar to the ribbon illustrated.
At least one matte proof, without the S mintmark, is reported; this we have not been able to examine to date. If the report is correct, the coin must have been specially made at Philadelphia it too went from the J.R Sinnock estate to its present East Coast holder.
Early struck satin finish specimens exist that are far better struck than normal impressions, with sharp inner rims and extra detail on garment and pelt; the fields are not truly mirrorlike but show unusual gloss with raised die striations. They are rare, and one of us believes that they are probably the only survivors qualifying at the gem level. Gem uncirculated specimens are becoming less available; many of the survivors came from non-numismatic sources, and were carelessly handled or badly cleaned.