The Congressional authorization for this commemorative required no less then 25,000 pieces and set no upper limit on production. The initial striking in January 1937 included 25,015 pieces which were sent to the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association for distribution. This minting sold well and a second striking of 25,015 coins, indistinguishable from the first, was executed in June. Unfortunately, the market was saturated by this time and many of these coins remained unsold. Eventually 21,000 coins were returned to the mint to be melted leaving the net mintage a bit over 29,000.
The design of this coin was executed by Williams Marks Simpson. The Medallic Arts Company of New York was responsible for creating hubs from the design and delivering them to Philadelphia where the final dies were created.
The obverse design is dominated by a bust of Sir Walter Ralegh (correct spelling) which is supposedly modeled after Errol Flynn who had recently played Ralegh in a motion picture during the 1030's. The bust shows Ralegh dressed in period clothing including a Ruff collar, an earring, and a hat complete with a feather. The name “Sir Walter Raleigh” (note the incorrect spelling) arcs under the bust and the artist monogram is under the bust and above the name. The inclusion of the misspelled name was a source of some discussion during the design process. The artist wanted to use the correct spelling, but the Fine Arts Commission and the Treasury insisted that the spelling had to be the same as that used on the Congressional Authorization! As usual the bureaucracy won! The date appears just to the left of Ralegh’s chin (the only inscription not in an arc). There are two rows of text around the coin. The outer row includes “United States Of America” across the top and “Half Dollar” across the bottom (with words and phrases separate by dots, and a couple extra dots on the lower right to fill space). The inner ring includes “E Pluribus Unum” (with dots between words) in the upper left quadrant, “Liberty” to the right (with dots before and after) and the aforementioned name across the bottom (with dots at beginning and end).
The reverse is dominated by a mother holding a child. These are identified as Virginia Dare, the first infant born to English colonist in the new world and her mother Ellinor Dare. Ms. Dare is flanked on either side by small three masted sailing ships representative of the ships the colonists would have sailed on to reach the new world. Ms. Dare stands on a small plot of ground with a small bush or tree growing on her right side. Inscriptions again appear in two rings, though the inner ring is only along the top and include “1587-1937” directly under Ms. Dare, then “The Colonization of Roanoke Island North Carolina” beginning to the feft of the date and ending to its right and again the words are separated by dots. The inner inscription across the top is “The Birth of Virginia Dare” and is split by Ms Dare’s head between "… of" & "Virginia…". There are dots on the left side, but none around the name on the right. The motto “In God We Trust” appears in the field to the left of Ms. Dare and below the ship (with no dots used).