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Pilgrim Tercentenary
Boston sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, designed the Pilgrim half dollars of 1920 and 1921. The obverse shows a stylized portrait of Governor William Bradford in profile facing left holding a Bible in his left hand. Above his head is the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the words separated by dots. Below, separated by a star on each side, is the inscription PILGRIM HALF DOLLAR. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST is in the right field above his shoulder. The reverse portrays the Mayflower in full sail. It is surrounded by the inscription PILGRIM TERCENTENARY CELEBRATION, the words separated by dots. Below, separated by stars, are the dates 1620-1920. The 1921 coin adds the date to the left field in front of Bradford at shoulder height.
The Pilgrims were Puritans who fled England during the reign of King James I. William Bradford was with the group of Pilgrims who arrived from England on board the Mayflower. They landed in 1620 in what today is Massachusetts. Bradford was elected governor of the colony of Plymouth and served for thirty years.
As every school child knows, the Mayflower was the Pilgrims’ ship. However, it is incorrectly portrayed on the coin. The coin shows a flying jib sail, which was not used until much after 1620. A square sail under the bowsprit should have been shown.
Pilgrim TercentenaryThe coins were issued by the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commission using The National Shawmut Bank of Boston and other outlets. There was no official original packaging. Some pieces for Rhode Island were distributed in cardboard boxes that contained the coin and a small certificate which said “Society of Colonial Wars/ in the State of Rhode Island and/ Providence Plantations/ by its Governor/Henry Dexter Sharpe, Esq.” The total quantity minted of the 1920 issue was 200,112. Of those 152,112 were actually distributed with 48,000 returned for melting. For the 1921 issue, 100,053 were minted. However, only 20,053 were distributed with 80,000 returned for melting. The 1921 coin was the first variety of the early commemorative series made to increase sales to collectors.


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