The dates 1821-1921 refer to the centennial of Missouri's admission into the Union as the 24th State, August 10, 1821, following Maine as 23rd, as part of the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820. Though usually identified merely as "a frontiersman," the bust of a young man in deerskin jacket and coonskin cap was originally intended to represent Daniel Boone, who had died in 1820 at the age of 86.
On the first variety, the 2*4 in left field again alludes to Missouri's rank as 24th State and 24th star on the flag.
On reverse, the 24 stars have the identical meaning apparently on the principle that some ideas need to be repeated to get into others' heads; the remainder are more obscure. A white frontiersman with rifle and powderhorn (apparently on the old theory that "the only good Injun is a dead Injun") appears to be sending away the Indian, whose shield and peace pipe are mere impedimenta. Taxay quotes James Montgomery (chairman of the Missouri Centennial Exposition) as having suggested both Boone's portrait and the Indian (originally to be sitting at Boone's feet facing the river), to signify that "the white man had supplanted the Indian in Missouri Territory," as though this was something to brag about.
On the coin, the pose is theatrical and suggests a quite different situation, the caption that immediately springs to this writer's mind (W.B.) is "Straighten your loincloth and get on stage, buddy that's your cue!" In exergue, the name SEDALLA designates the site of the Exposition and State Fair for which these coins were made. Near the rifle butt, the peculiar monogram (like a stylized movie camera on a tripod) is meant to be RA, the initials of Robert Aitken, the sculptor.
The Act of Congress of March 4, 1921 Warren G. Harding's inauguration day, a singular choice. Harding must have signed it as a lame-duck item left over from the previous Congress.
Uncertain. It has been conjectured that the portrait of young Daniel Boone may have been remotely inspired by the Albin Polasek bust of Boone in the New York University Hall of Fame. (As it faces the viewer, this bust is backlit, and the only way to obtain a profile view is in silhouette.)
The Federal Commission of Fine Arts hired Robert Aitken (a safe choice because of his earlier commemorative coin designs) during the last week of March 1921. Aitken's earliest sketches embodied James Montgomery's suggestions. Montgomery had originally wanted the Missouri Great Seal for the reverse, but Aitken found that in half dollar size it would produce an impossibly crowded and dull composition. On May 26, Charles Moore, chairman of the Fine Arts Commission, telegraphed Aitken, approving of the "Daniel Boone head" and the "reverse with two standing figures." The latter was evidently Aitken's own concept, as nothing like it was found among Montgomery's suggestions; in fact, the Missouri Centennial Exposition Committee's advertising continued all summer long to feature Aitken's sketch of Great Seal, evidently unaware that Aitken had abandoned it!
Because the coins had to be ready in early August, Aitken had his models reduced to coin size by the Medallic. Art Company in New York, and the hubs so produced were sent directly to the Philadelphia Mint. James Montgomery had the idea of marking some part of the issue with a distinctive emblem or inscription as a way of selling more coins; the Mint accordingly placed in 2*4 on the first working obverse die, from which 5,000 coins were struck in July.
After wards, the 2*4 was ground off this die, and 45,000 more coins followed in the same month, plus 28 extra for assay.
Distribution began during the first week of August 1921. The Exposition and State Fair sold the plain coins, the Sedalia Trust Company marketed the 2*4s. Several were displayed a few weeks later at the ANA Convention in Boston. No original holders have been seen or described.
A single 2*4 matte proof striking has been reported, but even ten years later it remains unavailable for examination.
Though the coins were well liked, national distribution through numismatic channels appears to have been very limited, and not many were sold at the brief Exposition possibly because of little advance publicity, possibly because then and later relatively few people in that Depression year felt they could afford the pieces, even at $1 apiece for either variety.
Possibly because of the financial pinch during the 1921 crisis, possibly also during the 1929-1936 Depression years, many of the Missouris were spent; others were kept as good luck pocket pieces. As a result, few pristine gems remain. Grading is difficult, because the striking quality of most of them is less than satisfactory. It has been estimated that not more than 400 of either variety survive in choice mint state.