The standard Half dollar size coin was authorized by act of congress on May 12 1920, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the 1620 Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Massachusetts. The coin was sponsored by the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commission presumably to raise funds for various planned events. They provided the basic design to Boston sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin who designed the coin and made the models in a little over a month. Hastily completing the task to meet the deadline for mintage in 1920. The original authorization was for 300,000 coins, but only 200,000 were minted in the first year of issue. To complete the mintage another 100,000 coins were minted in 1921 with the addition of the 1921 date to the obverse field to the left. Final mintage figures are somewhat uncertain as some of the 1920 coins and many of the 1921 coins went unsold and were returned to the Mint to be melted. The Net mintage figures in the “Guide book of United States Coins” are 152,112 for 1920 (of which Breen and Swiatek indicate that 112 are assay pieces) and only 20,000 in 1921. There is indication that some of the Assay pieces from 1920 were made as Matte Proof coins.
The coins obverse design includes a portrait purported to be Governor William Bradford. The governor is shown in period dress with his head bowed wearing a conical hat. He holds a book (the bible?) under his left arm. The inscriptions “United States of America” and “Pilgrim Half Dollar” range along the obverse rim and the motto “In God We Trust” is in the field above the Governors left shoulder. The designers “D” initial is tucked under the governors Left elbow just before the word “Dollar” in the inscription (see arrow on image).
The reverse design is an image of the Mayflower in full sail on a choppy sea. Sailing purest were quick to point out that the small triangular flying Jib on the ship’s bow is inconsistent with the rigging of ships similar to the Mayflower. The Inscription “Pilgrim Tercentenary Celebration 1620 – 1920” is along the rim. The dual date combination was the only date on the 1920 issue and remained unchanged on the 1921 issue though as noted above the 1921 date was added to the Obverse field.