What a Difference a Star Makes (1922 Grant Commemorative)


When it comes to rare coins Grand Rapids (as well as other places across the country) Mullen Coins has many collectors who specialize in early American commemoratives. Indeed, commemoratives have been popular with collectors and history buffs ever since their inception, as we describe in our recent post about “Why Collectors Enjoy Commemoratives.” As an example of what makes commemoratives an interesting specialty, we can take the mystery of the 1922 Grant with Star commemorative silver half.

As the story goes, the Grant commemorative was originally requested by the Ulysses S. Grant Centenary Memorial Association, with the idea of raising funds to erect monuments and coordinate special observances in Ohio for the 100th anniversary of Grant’s birth. Originally, a bill was approved by Congress in 1922 to mint 10,000 gold dollars and up to 250,000 silver half dollars.

For the gold dollars, the Grant Association planned to mint half of the issue with a star above the word “GRANT” on the obverse, purposely creating a variety that would help promote the coins. This strategy of intentionally creating a variety had worked well for the sponsors of the Missouri and Alabama half dollars in 1921. Somewhere along the line, though, a communication error occurred, and the Philadelphia Mint included a star on a small percentage of the silver Grant half dollar commemoratives as well, although it was not a part of either the commissioned or approved design. In the end, the Mint produced 4,256 of the commemoratives with a star, and 67,405 without (as originally intended).

Made to appeal to the masses, many Grant half dollars were initially purchased by non-collectors. When money got tight during the Depression, a vast number of these commemoratives were spent in general circulation. As a result, the number of these rare coins available in good condition is relatively low. The little star on the obverse side, just above the N in GRANT, can seem inconsequential, but it makes a big difference in the value of these particular rare coins. Since the initial mix-up with the star, the 1922 Grant with star half has been established as one of the major keys among U.S. commemorative half dollars, being one of the more difficult issues needed in a complete 144 piece early commemorative silver set.

To learn more about the unique qualities of the 1922 Grant with Star commemorative half dollar, and how to avoid added-star counterfeits, contact Mullen Coins or search our inventory.

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