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While Maine was settled by French colonists as early as 1604, it wasn’t until March 15th, 1820 that Maine became the 23rd state. 100 years later, Maine Representative John Peters sought the striking of a coin to commemorate the anniversary. With little debate on the subject, Congress authorized the mintage of up to 100,000 Maine Centennial half dollars on May 10th, 1920. Proceeds for the sale were to be used to help defray the costs of the centennial celebrations to be held in the state capital Portland.
Sketches were submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts, which were then forwarded to sculptor-member James Earle Fraser, of Buffalo nickel fame. He thought the designs were amateurish, but they were still used. Anthony De Francisci, a student of Fraser who would soon sculpt the Peace dollar, completed the plaster models that June and they were approved by the Commission on July 9th of the same year. The design is lackluster at best, and many believe both sides look like they should be reverses.
The obverse of the Maine Centennial half dollar features the state seal. A shield bearing a moose and a pine tree is at center, with a farmer and a sailor to the left and right of it, respectively. The Latin motto DIRIGO (I direct) is on a scroll above, with a star above it. Below the shield is a banner inscribed MAINE. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the value HALF DOLLAR are arranged in arcs around the periphery. The reverse is dominated by a wreath of pine branches. The words MAINE CENTENNIAL 1820-1920 are arranged within it. Above are the statutory legends E PLURIBUS UNUM and LIBERTY; below is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
An excellent example of a numismatic coin this will work well as a space filler in any coin collection.
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