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Vancouver Half Dollar
Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857), whose bust dominates the obverse, was a Canadian who gave up medical practice for the fur trade, becoming in 1821 one of the negotiators in the merger of Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. He built not only Ft. Vancouver (now Vancouver, Washington) but Oregon City, and from 1824 to 1846 he was the Hudson's Bay Company's top man in the Oregon Territory, during the entire period of U.S./British dispute over ownership of the land.
George Pipes has characterized him as "an absolute monarch, a benevolent despot, Haroun al-Rashid reincarnated...over about 1,000 white men (mostly trappers and traders working with Hudson's Bay Company) and possibly 100,000 Indians."
Ft.Vancouver was the only effective seat of government in the entire territory, which made up most of what are the present states of Oregon and Washington; and Dr. McLoughlin was perhaps the main reason why there were no wars between the whites and the Indians.
The reverse inscription is to be read in this order: FORT VANCOUVER CENTENNIAL; VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON, FOUNDED 1825 BY HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY. That will explain in part the device of a frontiersman, dressed in skins, musket at the ready, defending the stockaded settlement. In the background is Mt. Hood, one of the area's most famous landmarks; between it and fort is the Columbia River. The initials LGF are those of Laura Gardin Fraser, illustrious sculptor whose work we encountered earlier on the Grant coins. Ft. Vancouver (like Vancouver Island, and Vancouver City in Canada) is named for George Vancouver (1758-1798), who had sailed with Capt. Cook in the 1770s, but who is better remembered for commanding the British exploration of the northwestern Pacific Coast in the 1790s. Mintmark S for San Francisco was unaccountably omitted.
The Ft. Vancouver Centennial Corporation, preparing for local celebration, had Rep. Albert Johnson (R.-Wash.) attempt to push a bill through Congress to authorize a commemorative coin. Rep. Vestal of the House Coinage Committee persuaded him to accept a commemorative medal instead, but when Vestal reported out the bill for the Vermont coins, February 16, 1925, Rep. Raker (D.-Cal.) offered an amendment to authorize the California Jubilee issue, and Johnson moved to add his Vancouver coinage. The amended bill passed, much to Rep. Vestal's chagrin, becoming the Act of February 24, 1925.
Unknown. Devices were apparently prescribed by the Corporation. Mrs. Fraser took the liberty of showing R. McLoughlin at a later age, though she expressed doubt as to the likeness. (That on the 1948 Oregon Territory stamp is still more apocryphal.) She also took the greater liberty of adding the frontiersman. The Federal Fine Arts Commission had originally recommended Chester Beach for the work, but as he was out of town, they named Mrs. Fraser a happy circumstance, as her design was better than anything Beach could have come up with. She obtained the Commission on June 15, and completed the accepted models before July 1.
The authorizing act specified not over 300,000 pieces. The San Francisco Mint received the dies from Philadelphia in July, and on August 1 it completed the first batch of 50,000 coins, plus 28 reserved for assay. On the same day, the consignment went by plane to Vancouver ; Lt. Oakley G. Kelly, flight commander of the Vancouver Barracks, made the round trip from Vancouver to San Francisco in the one day, returning with 1,462 pounds of cargo from the mint, of which some 1,378 pounds must have been half dollars, the rest packing. The Centennial Corporation began selling the coins at $1 apiece through August and September; their Exposition opened August 17 and lasted one week. Several hundred numismatic value; many others were mishandled, kept as pocket pieces, or spent. Considering the remoteness and exclusively local nature of the celebration, it is surprising that as many as fourteen thousand coins were sold.

Survivors are extremely difficult to locate in choice mint state; one of us (A.S.) estimates that fewer than 300 survive, the remaining thousands being barely mint state or sliders or worse, many poorly cleaned.
Dr. McLoughlin's hair and shoulder, and the frontiersman's right knee, should show mint frost to qualify as fully uncirculated.
One matte proof has been seen (by W.B.), two others reported, one of these said to have been from the J.R. Sinnock estate. Aside from the matte surface, the proof has much more detail sharpness than even on the coin pictured above, particularly on Dr. McLoughlin's hair, frontiersman's garment, and the piles of the stockade, because of the extra blows from the dies required to bring up these details for making proofs. There are, however, several others which were given matte surfaces by private parties long after striking; as these were fabricated from ordinary business of details, and should not be deceptive. There were no original holders or literature.
There has been dispute over whether omission of the S mint mark was intentional or accidental. At this period it would doubtless have been accidental, and may have been a feature of the single pair of dies. We need not postulate that more than one pair of dies was used for the first batch of Vancouver half dollars. Mint marks have normally been placed on working dies at the time of their completion by the Philadelphia mint, before shipment to the branch mints; this procedure has been standard since the first branch mints began operation in 1838, and it remains standard today even though the Philadelphia mint is no longer the largest coining facility.
Accidental omission of mint marks is nothing new. The first time it came to official attention was in 1870, when the gold dollar and $3 dies reached the San Francisco branch without the S, and some 2,000 gold dollars coined from them had to be melted. The Coiner, J.B. Harmstead, later cut an S onto the three-dollar die, and struck at least two pieces from it, one of which went into the cornerstone of the new mint building on Fifth and Mint Streets (between Mission and Market), where it remains; the other coin was looped, went onto his watch job, and is today in the Smithsonian Institution as part of the Louis Eliaberg estate exhibit. More recently, proof sets made at San Francisco have occasionally shown up with one coin lacking the S-the dime in 1968 and 1970, the nickel in 1971, and reportedly others. However, the Ft. Vancouver commemorative half dollar is the only coin whose entire issue came from a branch mint without a mint mark.

United States Assay Office - U.S. Assay Office Humbert Slug - Humbert Gold

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