The 1936 Delaware commemorative half dollar honors the tercentenary of “The First State,” which sits atop the Delmarva Peninsula on the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern seaboard. But why is Delaware known as “The First State”? Because it was the first state to join the Union by ratifying the United States Constitution. Those are bragging rights that come without peer. It also ensured that Delaware was therefore the first state represented in the 50 State Quarters Program, which kicked off in 1999 and honored each of the 50 states in the order they joined the Union. But surely Delawareans weren’t thinking much about getting first dibs on certain commemorative coin programs when these American pioneers adopted the United States Constitution in 1787…
By the 1780s, Delaware had already been settled for some 15 decades, with the first European settlers there descending upon modern-day Wilmington, now the biggest city in Delaware and largely incorporated into the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. Those early European settlers were from Sweden and came ashore via the sailing ship known as Kalmar Nyckel. They colonized a region to be known as New Sweden and eventually built Holy Trinity Church, opening around 1699 and is the oldest church in America that is still used for worship as originally built.
Both the Kalmar Nyckel and Holy Trinity Church appear on the 1936 Delaware half dollar, minted in Philadelphia in 1937 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Delaware in 1938. If that’s a lot of math to digest, here’s even more: one example graded MS67+ by Professional Coin Grading Service netted an impressive $3,120 in a Heritage Auctions offering in 2019. That specimen, one of the finest graded, boasts handsome olive hues on the obverse and reverse that speak to the coin’s originality and pair well with its impeccable surfaces.
*Images are courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.HA.com.