1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar, PCGS Coin of the Month

1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar, obverse

The 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar, PCGS MS67 is the Professional Grading Service’s (PCGS) Coin of the Month.

The family of United States commemorative half dollars struck from 1892 through 1954 offers a diverse array of scarce and beautiful designs representing a wide variety of people, places, and events. One of the many honoring explorers of yesteryear was the 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half-dollar, struck to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s arrival in the Pacific island chain that he named the Sandwich Islands in honor of John Montague, the fourth earl of Sandwich. The island, already long populated by indigenous persons who had long referred to their Pacific paradise as Hawaii, a name that gained greater prominence beyond locality by the 1840s.

1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Half Dollar, reverse

The 1928 Hawaii Sesquicentennial half-dollar features an obverse portrait of Cook and a reverse visage of a Hawaiian native gesturing toward the grandeur of his island home. The coins were distributed at the issue price of $2 – then the highest price ever charged for a commemorative half-dollar – and saw sales of 10,008 pieces. The coin, with its tropical theme of a place many considered exotic, has long been popular with collectors. Demand for the coin is strong, and the scant mintage for this one-year type (as many classic commemoratives were struck for multiple years, offering collectors a greater choice of type examples) puts tremendous pressure on pricing. Conditional scarcity only adds to the high prices for choice specimens.

Consider that even in a grade of AU50 the 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half-dollar can easily fetch $1,500 to $2,000. From there, prices go up exponentially in the better Mint State grades. Part of the reason behind this is that the majority of these coins were sold in Hawaii, many going into the hands of non-collectors who mishandled or even spent these coins as regular money. This left a small supply for collectors in the Lower 48 and even fewer specimens still that offer decent, problem-free surfaces. One example graded by Professional Coin Grading Services in MS67 boasts not only exceptional quality but also tremendous eye appeal, with rainbow toning to boot. When it appeared at a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction in August 2022 it managed the princely sum of $96,000.

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