The Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary half dollar was conceived of and sponsored by the “Huguenot-Walloon New Netherlands Commission” and the Commission Chair, Reverend Dr. John Baer Stoudt (who just happened to be a coin collector). The commission working through Rep Albert H. Vestal, chairman of the House Coinage Committee move the legislation through the legislature with little discussion and the authorization for not more than 300,000 coins was signed in February 26, 1923.
The issue was purported to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch Calvinists (Huguenot) in the new world in 1624. However when it was discovered that the “commission” was actually a front for the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and that the proceeds of the sale were being directed to the churches, protests began. Evidentially the protest, lead by both secular organizations arguing separation of church and state, and other religious organizations arguing that they were not being cut in on the profit fell on deaf ears in congress.
Because the mint desired to keep the design task in house, the job was given to the Mints Chief Engraver George T. Morgan, who had taken over the job upon Charles Barber’s death in 1917. Morgan’s models were based on design concepts provided by Rev. Stoudt, acting for the commission. However, the initial execution of the models were declared unsatisfactory by the Federal Fine Arts Commission and James Earl Fraser, who had recently completed designs for the Buffalo Nickel was brought in to oversee the revision of the design.
The Obverse design includes the portraits of two men billed as “Martyrs to the Calvinist Cause”, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and William the Silent. Irrespective of fact that both men were dead long before the Dutch settlers sailed for the new world in the 1620s, and had little if anything to do with the expedition. Close inspection of the design reveals two portraits purported to be the men identified in small print under the portrait, but given that no original images of either man exist the features are simply the imagination of the sculpture. The men are dressed in period costume including hats ruffled collars and various pieces of Jewlery and finery. Inscriptions include “United States of America” along the top rim with dot between the words, “In god we trust” in four lines to the right of the portrait and “Huguenot Half Dollar” along the bottom rim. A careful examination of the truncation of the Admirals Left shoulder reveals the initial “M”, Morgan’s signature.
The Reverse design is based on a sketch by the Reverend Stoudt of the “Nieuw Nederland”, the three masted Caravel the Dutch used on their voyage to the new world. The ship sails to the Left on a rough ocean. The dates “1624” and “1924” are on either side of the ship. The inscription “ Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary” runs along the top rim, and “Founding of New-Netherland” runs along the bottom
General Market Notes
The entire initial mintage of 142,080 coins including the 80 coins reserved for assay were eventually sold at the issue price of $1.00 each, but the balance of the Authorized mintage was never struck.