This coin (unlike many of the issues of this era) was designed, minted and distributed with little to no controversy or intrigue. The "Event" commemorated here was the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by English sea Captain James Cook. The authorizing legislation was signed on March 7th 1928, and called for the minting of 10,000 silver half dollars. The plan, which was executed without problems, was for most of these coins to be distributed in Hawaii by the Bank of Hawaii Ltd., with mainland dealer allowed to buy lots of 100 coins for sale outside the island. The total mintage was eventually 10,008 with 8 coins being reserved for Assay and 50 of these coins executed in a sandblasted proof finish that the Mint insisted on. The sandblasted proofs were never very popular with the collector community.
The designs for this coin were conceived by local Hawaiian artist Juliet May Fraser who sent preliminary sketches and descriptions to Chester Beach to create the actual models. As was common practice at that time, these models were then sent to the Medallic Arts Company of New York to create dies. The coins were all minted in Philadelphia.
The obverse design shows a bust of Captain Cook in wig and military uniform facing to the left. Inscriptions include; “United Stated of America” across the top (words separated by dots). “Half Dollar” under the bust at the bottom. “Capt. James Cook Discoverer of Hawaii” to the left of the bust just under the chin, with a compass rose pointing north at the end of first line, and finally “In God we Trust” behind the bust at the neck level. In addition to the inscriptions, there are a number of interesting symbols included in the design. Just behind the bust to the right is a circular monogram "C" & "B" for Chester Beach. Below the bust on either side of the Half Dollar inscription are 8 triangles (identified as “volcanoes” in the original coin description), 4 on each side, representing the 8 primary Islands of the Hawaiian chain. Finally, around the edge of the coin is a border made of repetitive swooping figures reminiscent of waves. Note that all of the inscriptions on this coin are in swooping aloft cursive font which according to the original artist is ment to evoke feelings of the sea.
The reverse design is extremely Hawaiian, showing a warrior in battle dress standing in front of a palm tree on a promontory overlooking Waikiki Beach. There are huts and palm trees on the beach and diamond head in the background. The warrior is dressed in the traditional cape, helmet and loin cloth and carries a spear in his left hand while his right arm is stretched in welcome. The only inscriptions on the back are “E Pluribus Unum” in the lower left, and the dates 1778-1928 at the bottom, with a fern or small palm tree in the foreground under the inscription to the left of the date.
General Market Notes
Many of the coins from this issue were sent to the Hawaiian Islands for sale, and as late as the early 1980's there was speculation that a couple of large Hoards of these coins might exist in bank vaults on the Islands. To date none have surfaced!