One of more than a dozen commemoratives authorized for minting in 1936 the Cleveland centennial was another distribution opportunity for collector and promoter Thomas G. Melish. Mr. Melish had already gone to the well once with the Cincinnati Commemorative and as treasurer of the “Cleveland Centennial Commemorative Coin Association” he offered his services to the “Cleveland Centennial and Great Lakes Exposition”.
The exposition was held from 27 June to 4 October, 1936 on a 125 Acre Lakefront site to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Cleveland in 1836. The exposition was typical of the large regional and world fairs of the era. The Exposition association hired Mr. Melish to promote and distribute the original mintage of 25,000 coins which he did successfully before the end on the exposition (at $1.50 apiece). The sellout of the first minting resulted in a second order of 25,000 coins representing the balance of the maximum mintage authorization of 50,000 pieces. This second mintage was actually created in February of 1937, but is still dated 1936. The coins from this second mint run are identical to those of the first.
The Obverse design is a bust of revolutionary war General Moses Cleaveland, created by Ms. Brenda Putnam, a well know sculpture of the era. General Cleaveland faces left with two rings of text around the portrait. The outer ring includes “United States of America (from 8 O’clock to 4 O’clock) and “Half Dollar” with the two inscriptions separated by a dot. The inner ring includes “Liberty” to the left of the bust and “Moses Cleaveland” above it. The Artists initials “BP” are below the bust to the right just above the second “L” in “Dollar”.
The reverse design is based on official Insignia of the Great lakes Exposition. It depicts a map of the five great lakes with nine stars representing the major cities in the region (Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toronto and Rochester from left to right across the face of the coin). Spanning the map is a set of dividers with one leg on Cleveland (the largest star) and the other touching the Northern Edge of Lake Superior. The text “1836 Great Lakes Exposition 1936” arcs around the top edge while “Cleveland Centennial” arcs along the bottom. The statutory inscriptions “In God We Trust and “E Pluribus Unum” are above the map and to the right respectively.
General Market Notes
The mintage of 50,030 includes 15 coins from each of the two strikings that were held back for assay. This mintage is the third largest (after Long Island and SF-Oakland Bay Bridge) for the coins authorized for issue in 1936. As Breen relates, the first two hundred struck were handled with great care and sold in specially numbered envelopes or holders (reminicent of the grading services "First Day of Issue" designation) , but after that the balance were not given any special treatment.