The Bridgeport Connecticut Centennial Half dollar was authorized by congress on May 15, 1936. Although the town of Bridgeport was established in 1639, the coin commemorates the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the town. The Authorization called for a mintage of no less than 25,000 coins and contained wording that allowed and indefinite quantity as long as they were all minted at one facility and dated 1936! Proceeds from the sale of the coin were to be used to fund the local celebrations in Bridgeport.
The coin was designed by Henry Kries, whose previous work included the Connecticut Tercentenary the previous year. The models for the coin were completed in July and forwarded to the Medallic Arts Company of New York for execution on dies. The coins were all struck in Philadelphia and delivered to Bridgeport in September, where most were originally sold in spite of being delivered after most of the centennial celebrations were complete! The few thousand coins that remained were eventually wholesaled for a small premium over face which probably accounts for a number of the Hoard that came to marked in the 1970’s & 80’s.
The Obverse features a portrait of arguably Bridgeport’s most famous son, Phineas Taylor Barnum! P.T. Barnum, showman, businessman, scam artist entertainer, Circus Owner, "show business" millionaire as well as author, publisher, and politician, lived in Bridgeport in his older years and was elected mayor in 1875. The protract faces left and ends just below the collar with the name P. T. Barnum just below. The Inscription “Bridgeport Connecticut Centennial 1836-1936” runs around the entire rim, with the words separated by dots.
The Art Deco Eagle on the reverse is very reminiscent of the eagle seen on Kries’ earlier work the Connecticut Centennial half. On that coin the Eagle is seen face on while on this the eagle is seen from behind, standing on a rock with its shoulders hunch as if about to spread his wings. Inscriptions include “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” running from about 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock, with “HALF DOLLAR” below the eagle, three lines of inscription in from of the eagles Right talon including “IN GOT WE TRUST” at the top, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in the middle and “LIBERTY” at the bottom. A very small incused “K” for the designer is included just to the right of the rock on which the eagle is perched
General Market Notes
A number of small Hoards have been revealed in the the 1970's and 80's Proably as a result of the wholesaling of the last couple of thousand coins as the program drew to a close.