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Which Are Your Favorite Classic Silver Commems?

20 posts in this topic

Believe it or not, I have spent substantial time thinking this through for my own answers. I was originally inspired to ask this question when I linked an image of a newly purchased Pan-Pac and braddick, I believe, wrote that this was one of his five or so favorite designs. Since I have always greatly admired this series, and think that some of the designs are superb, I thought it would be easy to pick the finalists. Well, I was wrong! shocked.gif There is no doubt in my mind that this list will not match most other lists very well, but, who cares? That's part of the beauty of this series! smile.gif Here are my top ten with some commentary-


1) Connecticut-Easiest pick in the bunch; my all-time favorite commem. The eagle, which so many people do not like at all, is ultr-modern and sleek. It looks quite dynamic to me. The obverse features a wonderfully distorted and out of proportion Charter Oak. Those who know their history cannot help but read the symbolism with ease and the two sides complement each other well. I love this coin. grin.gif


2) Texas-Can a coin have more stuff crammed into it and still look good? I mean, look at that reverse! Holy Smokes! The list of things that were placed on this coin is enormous. Usually such a strategy does not work, but, it somehow looks good on this coin. The obverse pairing of the striking eagle and star with its simplicity and power is very nice.


3) Illinois-At this point it gets very tricky for me to pick the order of the coins. The reverse eagle and shield are extremely powerful and well done. The composition is beautiful. Lincoln's portrait on the obverse has always struck me as being full of strength yet also filled with sorrow. This coin would look great struck as a medal.


4) Hudson-Have you ever seen such an odd coin? I mean, what's going on with that obverse?!?! I love it! The main feature has Neptune riding a whale while holding a trident, give me a break! In the background is a mermaid with a conch. The entire composition just works for me, even if it sounds like something from a fantasy game. The reverse motif, a ship, is common to many classic commems and lends itself to the confines of a round coin especially well. The ship, the Half Moon, looks great as it rides waves that spell "HUDSON" below it, even if the moon (that includes the man-in-the-moon face on it) is a crescent moon. I would laugh if this were proposed to me. I guess I'm glad it wasn't!


5)Antietam-The obverse seems to exude the dignity of the soldiers who not only fought in the Battle of Antietam but who also fought everywhere. It is handsome and understated. The reverse shows what could be a wonderful park grounds if it weren't for the fact that it was one of the bloodiest single-day battles in the history of our country. Approximately 25,000 men were casualties that single day. Amazing and awe-inspiring to think of the courage and fortitude shown. It's one of the commems that simply makes me think.


The remaining five coins to fill out my top ten include the Oregon Trail, Lafayette, Panama-Pacific Exposition, Missouri and Long Island.


This list is no doubt wildly different from most other numismatists. What is your list and why? 893scratchchin-thumb.gif


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I don't collect commems, but they are really intriguing and a set I would love to work on one day(probably the 50 piece type set)


However, number one on my list is the Pilgrim. I don't know what it is about the coin, but since the first time I held one, that ship on the reverse just jumps out from the coin and looks to be riding some huge waves.


The Oregon Trail, either toned or creamy and lustrous, this and the Texas commems just exude beauty and America to me. I also like the Connecticut and its powerful oak, the reverse of the Cleveland commem, and the Pan-Pacific, San Diego, and Antietam.

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Tom, I'm going to reply to your post, even though (or maybe because) you replied to mine, BEFORE I committed to do the same, with respect to yours..... 893scratchchin-thumb.gif


My first choice is the Hudson - the obverse, featuring Neptune (I'm a big fan of mythology) on a whale, wins me over, even considering my preference for the artistic beauty of some of the other designs.


Others I like, include:


The California, (for it's design elements and the wonderful luster which is so often present on the issue), the Oregon, Pan Pac and Texas . It is admittedly difficult for me to separate my favorite designs, from my association of various issues with superb quality, eye-appeal and toning, etc.

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It seems like it's unanimous for the Texas so far!


I agree with you, Mark, that it is difficult to partition design quality from issue quality. This is something I had a very hard time with. Like you, I had the California on my list and it was lopped off on the last cut before the top ten was arrived at. I think I had the California on the list that late because of the incredible luster that this issue often comes with. As for the design, I vary with how much I like it. Another coin like that is the Elgin and it is a coin I think is cool because of its satiny look, not its blasty look.


This question made me think a lot... 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

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My favorite half dollar designs are the Oregon Trail, California, and Pan Pac. I like the Oregon half for the boldness of design, the California for its simplicity, and the Pan Pac for its classic look. I also like the reverse of the Illinois Centennial half because it reminds me of one of my favorite reverse patterns.


I also like the Cal Pac (San Diego) half, but that may be a matter of proximity and familiarity with the area.

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For me it is the Pilgrim. I love the ship on the reverse. While somewhat plain I also think the Pilgrim on the obverse looks neat.


The Hudson is also great. The obverse is great!


The Bay Bridge is nice. I like the bear. I've got one of these in the original sealed boxes signed by the designer.


The California is nice. The bear on the reverse is grand.


I don't care for the Texas or Norfolk that much. They are too busy for my tastes.

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I have to agree about the Hudson! I don't own one yet, but have been looking for a suberbly original example for more than a year. Hard to find/afford in the condition I like. I can't get over the crescent moon! And after all, I work for Neptune (and Co.)! 27_laughing.gif


I simply love the California. The history is dear to me, since I grew up in the wilds of that state before it became so crowded, and I spent many hours with a gold pan as a kid. (The biggest nugget [not so big- fingernail size] I ever found was in a doorstep of an old home in Chico, CA, that was made from river sand!) As a park ranger, I used to demonstrate gold panning and other techniques of the 49ers. And the bear!!!! What a GREAT BEAR!!!! Too bad the last grizzly was shot in CA in 1926. frown.gif


The Oregon trail is a natural for me due to my love of the history of the West. There's something simply reverent about the coin and the symbolism speaks volumes.


Believe it or not, I love the Bay Bridge half! Another GREAT BEAR!!!! I also love the way the water and bridge were handled in sculpture. Just magnificently artful.


Other favorites include the San Diego (I love Minerva portraits - and ANOTHER BEAR!), the Lexington-Concord, Antietam (serene image of a terrible event), Texas (the angel is purddy), Missouri (western all the way), and LaFayette (strength of characters). I also love the reverse of the Boone (more western stuff). I almost forgot the Hawaiian! Speaks of a deep history and natural history that began with that initial contact.


Whew! acclaim.gif



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Lafayette- because it's big and the only dollar in the early commemeratives. Isabella quarter- I like the cool toning these usually come with. Columbian- with nice toning and in mint state I think these are one of my favorite US coins Roanoke- a very cool looking coin with some neat history about the lost colony. Oregon trail- I like everything about this coin. mike smile.gif

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Let me submit a long shot -- I really like the New Rochelle. I find the "fat calf" on the obverse amusing, and a contrast to the very simple fleur de lis on the reverse. Also, the issue can often have great luster and occasionally monster toning.


I also like the simplicity of the obverse of the Spanish Trail, not to mention the play on words associated with the design.


It's a tough choice, because the 50 piece set is remarkably diverse in styles, themes, historical references, humor . . .

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Hmmm....had to bust out the Red Book so I didn't forget any. wink.gif


My criteria: Design first then substance and history; Two sides always beat one side; humor, wierdness, coolness: the intangibles count.


1. Connecticut. Also my easiest pick. The first time I saw it I was struck by the simple strength of both designs. The simbolism, the designs, the history--I like everything about this coin but the price, and it could be worse.


2. Oregon Trail. I really like the execution of both designs, and the two sides of the coin truly tell two sides of the same story. Also, I used to play Oregon Trail all the time on an old Apple II E computer at school. wink.gif


3. Bay Bridge. I dig bears and Bridges.


4. Bridgeport. It seems like I'm alone in my appreciation of the ultra modern hairless winged ferrot on this coin. I also find it humorous that P.T. Barnum is on a commem.


5. Hudson. As others have detailed: a wild design. All it needs is a centaur at the helm on the obverse.


6. California. Just two cool representations of things I like. Realatively simple designs that properly fill the available space (Are you listening state quarter designers?).


Honorable mentions: Texas, Antietam, Illinois, Pan-Pac, Monroe Reverse, Hawaiian.


Special Awards:


Maryland: Best representation of Alice Cooper on a commem.


Spanish Trail: Design most like a state quarter (Columbia Reverse is a close runner up).



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Perusing the Red Book:


Texas -- Texas, 'nuff said.


Bay Bridge -- nice design and relief, especially the reverse.


California -- nice designs, many can be found with pretty toning.


Washington-Carver -- butt ugly, but any coin with Texas can't be bad.


Connecticut -- I like the tree on the reverse.


Grant -- I like this better as a gold dollar, but enjoy the design immensely.


Hawaiian -- Nice and not a coin you see every day.


Lincoln -- Dignified Lincoln, would make a nice obverse if Congress insists on dead Presidents on coins.


Oregon Trail -- Nice and popular.


Pan-Pac -- Kind of a Greek or Roman beauty to the design.


Pilgrim -- Relief makes the coin feel like a medal.


San Diego -- Another nice California-based design.


Sesqui -- Usually poorly struck, but when struck well, a pretty coin.


Spanish Trail -- Texas on the reverse. laugh.gif


Stone Mountain -- It's a nice design, cool place to visit.



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Here are some of my favorites that others have not mentioned.


Isabella Quarter. This is the only quarter in the series. In MS-64 or higher it’s a nice looking coin when there is some attractive toning.


Lafayette Dollar. This coin is much maligned because the vast majority of them are ugly. No, I don’t like the usual charcoal gray pieces, but at least they are original. The ones that have been cleaned to death have almost no redeeming features. When you can find this coin with light attractive toning it is a numismatic oasis that perhaps only the lover of early commemorative coins can appreciate.


Columbian Half dollar – when you can find this coin with pretty toning or great luster, it’s actually quite attractive. Mostly you find dull pieces that have been cleaned or have dull toning.


Missouri – This coin is a real bear to find nice. Many so-called MS-63 and lower MS pieces are sliders. The trick for a collector who can’t or does not want to spend over $4K for this coin is to locate a really nice MS-64. I’ve seen a few nice MS-64 Missouri haves, most in the 2X4 variety. The 2X4 coins were struck first, from fresh dies. The plain coins were struck from the same dies after the 2X4 had been planed off. Hence the 2X4's are usually more attractive. The Plain variety coins were also sold at the state fair where a lot of farmers just shoved them into the pockets with their Engersaw watches. The 2X4 coins were sold at banks.


I also like pretty Pan-Pac half dollars (not easy to find), the Gettysburg, the Antietam and the Connecticut.


My least favorite old commemoratives are the Arkansas (just plain plug ugly) mad.gif and the Grant with star (an overpriced gimmick coin IMO that often comes ugly even when you spend $2K on one) insane.gif.


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I also think that the Missouri, when found nice, is a bonus coin. A few things that have surprised or even stunned me about this discussion are the number of people who like the Hudson so much. The only reason I write this is because so few people have ever mentioned the Hudson to me when they talk about their favorite commems. The same for the Connecticut, I'm shocked that it has been mentioned so many times.


Here's a Columbian with terrific luster, flashy and wonderful original toning that does not mute the coin. It is a truly lovely piece.


The thing that stuns me the most are the selections by Higashiyama! The New Rochelle and Spanish Trail!?!? shocked.gif893whatthe.gif Holy Smokes! I was even thinking of including those two in my first post as my least favorites, along with the Arkansas and Columbia coins. 893whatthe.gif


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TomB --


You've given me a chance to try out some more of the icons:





If we get together this summer, I'll bring a New Rochelle that I hope will change your mind!


Keep in mind that my praise of the Spanish Trail was qualfied (although I disagree with a previous poster who compares it to a state quarter)! I'm drawn to the very open fields of the obverse. It's a funny coin with regard to luster -- sometimes the matte finish is just drab and dull, and sometimes it is elegant and compliments the open fields. In any case, the cow is more pleasing to look at than many of the portraits that appear on US coins these days!

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Ahhhhh...my plan is now working...I shall asail all of your coins and you will bring all of them for me to view! 893whatthe.gif


HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! insane.gifinsane.gifinsane.gif


Seriously, I can believe that individual coins of any design are nice, however, the design in total is what I don't like. smile.gif

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No one mentioned Laura Fraser's other commemorative -- the Vancouver. In addition to being a great partner to the Oregon for historical reasons, I like the quaint look of the reverse -- not to mention the attractive toning this coin may have!

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