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United States Coinage for the Philippine Islands: The 1936 Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos

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JAA

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Today's Journal entry is the nineteenth installment in my weekly series on the United States coinage for the Philippine Islands. The eighteenth of the twenty slots that compose a NGC USA-Philippines Type Set is the 1936 Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos.

When the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Philippines became a United States possession. Unlike other colonial powers the U.S. always had intentions of giving the Philippine Islands full independence once the inhabitants were given educational opportunities and the basis for good government was established.

By 1935 "Nation Building" had progressed to the point where the Philippines were ready to make the important transition from a U.S. Territory to a self-governing Commonwealth. A Constitution for the Philippines was approved, and on November 15, 1935, the Philippines were granted Commonwealth status, with a promise of full independence by 1946.

To commemorate this important event a three coin commemorative set was struck by the Manila mint in 1936. The set consisted of a Fifty Centavos, and two One Peso Coins. The coins were designed by Ambrosio Morales, a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. Ten thousand three coin sets were produced. An additional 10,000 Fifty Centavos were produced for individual sale.

The 1936 commemorative Fifty Centavos was struck in .750 fineness silver and has the same size (27.5 mm), weight (10.00 grams, 154.32 grains), and silver content (ASW .2411 oz) as the regular issue 1907 -1921 Fifty Centavos.

The obverse design of the 1936 commemorative Fifty Centavos features facing busts of the first President of the Philippines, Manual L. Quezon (facing left), and Frank Murphy, the last U.S. Governor General of the Philippines and first U.S. High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of the Philippines (facing right). Between the busts is a sun upon which is inscribed the date of the Commonwealth establishment (November 15, 1935). Periphery inscriptions are "Commonwealth of the Philippines" (above) and "Fifty Centavos" (below).

The common reverse for the 1936 commemoratives depicts the seal of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with "United States of America" placed above and the date centered below. The Mint Mark appears to the left of the date. This Commonwealth Reverse was used on all USA/Philippine business strikes from 1937 through 1945.

Design elements of the Commonwealth Reverse incorporate the rich history of the Philippines. The eagle perched atop the shield, of course, represents the United States. The shield used was an adaptation of a design used for the official seal of The Government of the Philippine Islands which appeared on Philippine paper money starting in 1905 (Allen 2008). The three stars at the top of the shield represent the three main geographical regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, and the Visayas. The oval in the center of the shield depicts a modification of the Coat of Arms of the City of Manila which dates to 1596. A castle surmounted by a crown is in the upper portion of the oval. The mythical creature in the lower part of the oval is a half lion and half dolphin holding a sword with guard and hilt. The lettering on the Scroll beneath the shield reads "Commonwealth of the Philippines".

Despite the popularity of U.S. commemorative coins at the time the 1936 Commonwealth commemoratives sold poorly and many were on hand in the vaults of the Philippine treasury at the outbreak of World War ll.

When Japan invaded the Philippines the contents of the Philippine Treasury was moved from Manila to the Island fortress of Corregidor. During the winter and early spring of 1942 U.S. submarines, outward bound on war patrols from their base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, ran the Japanese naval blockade to bring in much needed ammunition and supplies for the American and Philippine defenders. Slipping into Corregidor under cover of darkness they would unload their precious supplies and fill their ballast tanks and storage spaces with the gold and silver reserves of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. After completing their war patrols the subs offloaded the gold and silver rescued from the Philippines at Pearl Harbor. From there it was transferred to the U.S. mainland where it was kept in safe keeping until the end of the war.

When it became apparent that Corregidor was about to fall the remaining silver coins, including many of the ill fated 1936 commemoratives, were crated and thrown into the sea near Corregidor to avoid their seizure by the Japanese.

Since the war many of these coins have been salvaged however these sea salvaged coins are typically heavily corroded from their long immersion in salt water. Despite their historical significance seas salvaged 1936 commemoratives are worth far less than mint state examples. Sea Salvaged Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos have an Allen catalog price of $25.00 - $40.00.

Die Varieties: There are no known die varieties of this coin.

Strike Issues: The 1936 Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos is typically well struck on both obverse and reverse.

GEM and Choice BU examples of the Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos make frequent appearances at major coin auctions and are moderately priced for such a low mintage coin. The Allen catalog lists this coin at $350.00 in MS65 and $165.00 in MS63. The most commonly seen certified grade is MS64 which has a combined NGC/PCGS population of 119. Mint State 64 is the grade most frequently seen on eBay and other internet coin auctions. There are currently two MS64 specimens listed on eBay (The "Buy it Now" prices of these coins are $235.00 and $275.00).

The attached picture shows my 1936 Murphy-Quezon Fifty Centavos, NGC MS65. (Mintage 20,000. Combined NGC/PCGS Population 66/6)

To see my USA-Philippines 1936 Commemorative Issues Registry Set click here: http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/registry/coins/SetListing.aspx?PeopleSetID=148016&Ranking=all

To see the other coins that comprise an NGC USA-Philippines Type Set visit my award winning (2011 Best Presented Set Award) USA-Philippines Type Set at: http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/registry/coins/SetListing.aspx?PeopleSetID=51257&;;Ranking=ngc

An expanded version of the USA-Philippines Type Set is found in my Custom USA-Philippines Type Set at: http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/WCM/CoinCustomSetView.aspx?s=9238

Next week's installment will feature the 1936 Murphy-Quezon One Peso.

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