The legislation for this coin was first proposed in early 1920 in the House as a Quarter Dollar commemorative but was later amended in April 1920 to a Half Dollar. The bill was signed into law and became the Act of May 10, 1920 with an authorization for 100,000 coins.
During the proposal process James Earl Fraser recommended a unique special marking on a limited number of coins to increase sales and pointed out the success that the recent Missouri Commemorative had by using a 2*3 marking that generated an additional 5,000 coin sales. The Alabama Centennial Commission agreed to a special marking of “2x2” which would be representative of Alabama being the 22nd state admitted to the Union.
The U.S. Mint delivered 64,000 of the plain or “No 2x2” coins and 6,000 of the “2x2” coins for a total of 70,000. But, 5,000 of the plain issues went unsold and were returned to the Mint to be melted giving us a net of 59,000 plain and 6,000 “2x2”. An additional 6 “2x2” and 38 of plain variety were minted for assay.
A design theme was defined late in 1920 and the task was given to Laura Gardin Fraser to design & sculpture both the obverse and reverse. The obverse is dominated by a jugate bust portrait of Alabama's first Governor William Wyatt Bibb and current Governor at that time Thomas E. Kilby. At the time, no one thought a portrait of current Governor Kilby violated any federal laws but in fact did violate the May 16,1866 Act which forbids the portrayal of any living individual on a coin. Flanking either side of the bust portrait are a total of 22 stars representative of Alabama being the 22nd state. Beneath the bust design are the names “BIBB” and “KILBY” with the year of issue (1921) in between. For “2x2” issues, the unique marking can be found to the right of the bust design above the stars.
The reverse design features the state seal of Alabama, an eagle clutching arrows on a shield and holding a banner in its beak with the motto “HERE WE REST”. To the right of the design (near the tail) are the designer's initials “LGF”. On the upper outer periphery are the words “STATE OF ALABAMA” and on the lower outer periphery is the word “CENTENNIAL” flanked on either side with the dates “1819” and “1919” .
General Market Notes
Initially, many of the coins were sold and saved as keepsakes but the Great Depression of the 1930's hit Alabamians especially hard and many had to use their “keepsakes” for everyday transactions leaving most specimens available today in a circulation grade (good to extra fine). This has created a large premium for uncirculated & almost uncirculated issues in relation to circulated grades.