The three hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Swedes in Delaware was the occasion for a souvenir issue of half dollars. The colonists landed on a spot which is now Wilmington and established a church which is the oldest Protestant church still use for worship.
According to C.L. Ward, chairman of the Delaware Swedish Tercentenary Commission, the ship side is obverse, and represents the Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar - a port city in southeastern Sweden). This ship, with its sister the Fogel Grip, brought settlers for the New Sweden colony to Delaware Bay, in an area already claimed by both the English and the Dutch. They arrived in March 1638, hence this date below the ship. They settled at "The Rock," building Fort Christian (now a park in Wilmington); they named the fort after the then 11 year old Queen Christina, later to be notorious throughout Europe both for her extreme intellectuality and for her intransigently unconventional lesbian lifestyle.
Slabaugh has sketched the complex story of boundary disputes near Delaware Bay (comparable to those between the Israelis and the P.L.O.) which were not to end until 1750, by which time the New Sweden colony had been taken over first by the Dutch and then by the English, only to become in 1776 part of the Sovereign State of Delaware, first to ratify the Constitution in 1787.
The three diamonds dividing 1638 - 1938 from other lettering allude to the state's three countries of Kent, New Castle, and Sussex, as well as (very approximately) to their conformation, and to the state's minuscule size and great fertility-apparently the acres of diamonds symbolism being taken seriously enough to give the state the sobriquet of "Diamond State" even though no diamonds are actually mined therein.
Initials CLS behind the stern of the ship are for Carl L. Schmitz, designer, sculptor. Not enough details are visible on the flags to tell, but presumably they're meant to be flags of Sweden. A model of the ship is part of the monument in the Fort Christina area.
On reverse, the sun's rays piercing the clouds (presumably symbolic of divine protection despite adversity) shine on the Old Swedes Church (Holy Trinity) at Wilmington. This was erected in 1698-1699, dedicated in the latter year, and remains open today as (allegedly) the oldest Protestant church building still in use for worship in the United States. Its location near "The Rocks." Very close to where the Kalmar Nyckel dropped anchor at landfall-made it a natural choice for inclusion in the commemoration, though the way it is represented on the coin is very different from the way it looked in 1699: the arch on the side dates only from 1750, the tower and belfry only from 1802. Date 1936 below the church is that of the coin's authorization.
About 80 original holders are known; these are regular give-coin Eggers holders, specially imprinted for the Commission. The vast majority of survivors are weakly struck in centers despite the coin's low relief. It is very unusual to find one in which the gable above the arch is completely clear, or in which the gable above the arch is completely clear, or in which the vegetation near the lower part of the tower is without blurring, or in which the clouds or the mainsail are free of flatness. Proofs are not reported, though probably some were made for John R. Sinnock.
On the other hand, there are brilliantly proof-like pieces from polished dies, and these may have been specially made for presentation.
Because the local celebrations were planned to the held by New Jersey and Pennsylvania in addition to Delaware, as well as nationwide among people of Swedish descent, numerous commemorative medals were struck in the United States and in Sweden. No comprehensive catalogue of these is known to us. Two tie-in items are familiar, however, and these could be used for effective exhibits.
One of these is the Swedish-Finnish Tercentenary stamp, depicting Stanley M. Arthur's painting "Landing of the First Swedish Settles in America."
The other-and for years far better known-is the Swedish commemorative 2 Kronor of 1938, Yeoman 61, the same size as the half dollar, portraying King Gustav V on obverse, and the crown above the Kalmar Nyckel on reverse. The legend NOVAE SUECIAE SUECIA MEMOR means "Sweden is mindful of New Sweden"; the dates 1638-1938 have the obvious explanation. In all, 500,000 were coined, and the late Wayte Raymond was among those who promoted this coin as a tie-in along with the Norse-American medals of 1925 and several other pieces tangential to commemorative coins.
Locating a specimen with a clean-surfaced center sail and the sail located in the exact center of the coin obverse, plus a reverse with a fully struck triangular top section above the church door (that resembles a wide arrowhead that appears to be pointing to the clouds above the church) would be a real find. Most specimens were flatly struck in this area on the reverse, while the sail usually shows slide marks or fine scratches on its surface. There exist proof-like specimens struck from a highly polished set of dies, possibly for presentation purpose: these should command a premium. Here is another issue which is believed to be easily located. However, top quality pieces are becoming difficult to find, and the present available supply is somewhat thin and not as plentiful as believed.