Another among the spate of commemoratives issued for a less than national event; the New Rochelle Commemorative was issued to commemorate the 250the anniversary of the founding of New Rochelle, New York, by Huguenots who emigrated from La Rochelle France. The coin was the brain child of the Westchester County Coin Club who lobbied to have it authorized, but then were cut out of the distribution when the authorization was re-written to specify that the "New Rochelle Commemorative Coin Committee" would handle distribution through the First National Bank of New Rochelle. The authorization was signed on May 5, 1936 and authorized the minting of no more than 25,000 coins dated 1938, at a single mint facility. 25,015 coins were actually produced at the Philadelphia Mint in April 1937 (15 coins reserved for Assay) However sales did not go as well as anticipated and in late 1938 the unsold 9,749 coin were returned to the mint to be melted leaving the net mintage of 15,266.
Of these, there are believed to be about a dozen Matte Proof specimens. One Matte Proof was in the collection of the Mint Chief Engraver John Sinnock and was sold upon his death to numismatist Abe Kossoff at the ANA convention auction in 1962. In addition, the first 50 pieces struck were labeled “Presentation Pieces”. These are essentially proof coins, struck once on polished planchets by polished dies. These pieces were given or sold to the members of the Westchester County Coin Club, and came complete with a letter attesting to the coins place in the order of striking among the original 50.
The design was executed by Ms. Gertrude K. Lathrop (who had previously designed the Albany commemorative). The design calls on New Rochelle history for the devices. The obverse shows a man in colonial garb complete with plumed hat, wig, cravat, cuffs and buckle shoe, pulling on a rope attached to a protesting Calf. The design is a reference to a clause in the original sales contract for the 6,000 acres of land that became New Rochelle. In that contract in addition to the initial monetary payment, Mr. Jacob Liesler (then governor of New York), his heirs or assigns was required to present to Mr. John Pell or his heirs or assigns one “Fatt Calfe on every fouer and twentieth day of June Yearly and Every Year and Every Year forever (if demanded)”. The designers initials “GKL” are in front of the calves front hooves. The obverse inscriptions that form a single line along the outer rim include, starting at about 8 o’clock going clockwise : “SETTLED 1688, INCORPORATED 1899” and going counterclockwise “ NEW ROCHELLE NEW YORK”. The two inscriptions are separated by small symbols that contain 7 dots reminiscent of a daisy. The words in the inscription are separated by dots.
The Reverse design is dominated by an Iris Blossom (or fleur-de-lis) which also appears on the city crest of New Rochelle and the shield of La Rochelle France. Inscriptions on the reverse are in two rings. The outer ring (in a larger font) includes “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” at the top and “HALF DOLLAR” at the bottom. The inner ring of text is in a much smaller font and includes “E PLURUBIS UNUM” on the left, “IN GOT WE TRUST” on the right, “LIBERTY” at the top and the date “1938” at the bottom. Again in all multiword phrases the words are separated by dot.