As one of the first commemorative half dollars, this issue was originally intended by Maine Congressional Representative John A. Peters, to be released into circulation at face value. The intent was to promote the state of Maine and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the creation of the state out of a territory originally included as part of the state of Massachusetts. The idea of using the Commemorative Coin Program as a vehicle to fund the pet projects of various special interests had not been fully developed as yet. However, by the time the Congress approved the striking the coins in May 1920 the "Maine Centennial Commission" had stepped in and took delivery of the initial mintage of 50,000 (of the 100,000 authorized) for sale at a premium. The profits were earmarked to go to the commission. Sales during the bicentennial celebration went well, and the initial mintage was mostly sold, however once the centennial celebration was over demand among collectors was not high enough to warrant coining the balance of the authorization.
The design was originally created as a drawing by Harry H. Cochrane an artist and Maine Legislator. The design as drawn showed the state arms on the obverse and a simple inscription inside a wreath on the reverse. When the designs was submitted by the Secretary of the Treasury to the Commission of Fine Arts, the resident sculptor on the commission, James Earle Fraser condemned them as “very ordinary” and recommended that they “should not be used”. In spite of persistent augment by the commission that the designs were inferior, the Maine Centennial Commission insisted that Cochrane’s original designs be used. The Commission finally hired Anthony de Francisci (who would later sculpt the Peace Dollar) to execute the design.
The Obverse design is based on the State Arms of Maine and shows a central shield device with a moose resting under a pine tree (both are incused). Flanking the shield on the left is a farmer leaning on a Scythe, while on the right is a sailor leaning on an anchor. “MAINE” is inscribed on a ribbon under the shield, and “DIRIGO” (Latin for “I direct”) is on a scroll above the shield. Just above the scroll, the North Star shines with five rays radiating from it. The inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” arcs across the top of the coin and in a slightly larger font “HALF DOLLAR" arcs across the bottom.
The reverse design is as simple as the obverse is complicated. The primary devise is a wreath of pine boughs complete with cones and tied with a ribbon at the bottom. The wreath circles a central inscription of “MAINE CENTENNIAL 1820-1920” presented in three lines. At the top of the coin, in an arc is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, and below that “LIBERTY”. Arcing across the bottom is “IN GOD WE TRUST”, with the words separated by dots and the ribbon from the wreath breaking the motto in the middle.
General Market Notes
As was originally intended, many pieces did find their way into circulation translating into many examples available today in the circulation grades of very fine to extremely fine making for affordable examples to a collector on a small budget.