The Delaware Tercentenary Half Dollar commemorates the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Swedish colonists aboard the ships “Kalmar Nyckel” and “Fogel Grip” in 1638. The colonist landed in Delaware Bay at present day Wilmington. Authorized May 15, 1936, these coins were not struck until 1937 to commemorate a 1938 event. The authorizing legislation called for the minting of NO Less than 25,000 silver half dollars, which were all struck at the Philadelphia Mint. The initial coining included the minimum 25,000 coins plus an additional 15 coins for assay. Eventually 4,022 coins were returned to the mint unsold and melted for a net mintage of 20,993.
The design was produced by Carl L. Schmitz who won a design competition sponsored by the Delaware Swedish tercentenary Commission. After completing his designs, the models were forwarded to the Medallic Arts Company of New York to produce the dies (a common practice at that time).
There is some controversy over which side of the coin is the obverse. The commission stated in their advertising literature that the ship side is the obverse, but the mint defined the Church side as the obverse. Conventional wisdom has come to agree with the Mint. The obverse side is dominated by an image of the “Old Swedes Church” at Wilmington. A cloud above the church has parted allowing the sun’s rays to shine on the church. Inscriptions include “United States of America” along the rim across the top and “Half Dollar” along the bottom. Under the church is “In God We Trust” with the date 1936 below that.
The reverse shows a three masted Galley under full sail on a moderately rough sea. The artist identifies this ship as the “Kalmar Nykel”, one of two vessels that brought the Swedish settlers to the new world. The inscriptions “E Pluribus Unum” and “Liberty” are directly under the ship. The primary inscription “Delaware Tercentenary” runs alongthe top rim from 8 O’clock to 4 O’clock. The twin dates 1638 and 1938 are at the bottom. The inscription and the dates are seperated by diamonds.