The “Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary Half dollar” was originally intended to be struck to commemorate the 75th anniversary of perhaps the Civil War's most famous battle. Funds raised from the commemorative were to be used for “the Blue and Gray Reunion” to be held on the battlefield form 1 -3 July 1938.
50,000 silver commemoratives were authorized by Congress on June 16th 1936. The coins were originally to be dated and sold in 1938, the year of the 75th anniversary of the battle, but the authorizing legislation resulted in the coins being dated 1936. To further complicate the situation, the coins were actually struck in 1937!
The Pennsylvania State Commission hired Mr. Fran Vittor to generate the design which was executed by mint engraver John R. Sinnock . The Obverse design shows the conjoined bust of a Union soldier in front of a bust of a confederate soldier. “United States of America” in block letters arc across the top edge of the coin from 9 O’clock to 3 O’clock and “Blue and Grey Reunion" arcs along the bottom. At the top, inside this ring of text is “Liberty” and slightly below and to the right “E Pluribus Unum”.
The reverse is dominated by a Union Shield on the left and a Confederate Shield on the right separated by a Fasces with Oak Leaves to the left of the Union Shield and Laurel Leaves to the right of the Confederate Shield. The inscription “1863 75th Anniversary 1938” arcs across the top of the coin and “Battle of Gettysburg” arcs along the bottom edge. The words are separated by dots. The inscription “In God” and “We Trust” is divide by the blade of the Fasces at the top, and the date “1936” and “half dollar” are below the shields.
General Market Notes
The initally authorized mintage of 50,000 coins were all struck in June 1937 with an additional 28 coins struck for assay. Sales were not as good as hoped and eventually 23,100 coins were returned to the mint to be melted.