100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins Series: 1982-D Washington Half Dollar Commemorative

There is an "unofficial" line drawn where vintage commemoratives end and modern commemoratives begin. Although some collectors believe vintage are the only ones worth mentioning, the success of the United States Mint’s commemorative program has included a great deal of both.

Perhaps the single biggest bridge between the two, vintage and modern, cannot be found more apparent than on the one that quite possibly revived the importance of the program nearly 40 years ago. This revival of sorts also included the first President of the United States of America.

So how fitting that this breath of fresh commemorative air make the list of the Top 100 United States Modern Coins put together by authors Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett. In addition to some of the most influential coin dealers in the numismatic hobby, we will take a look at this groundbreaking commemorative that found its way into the middle of the pack in Whitman Publishing’s fourth edition of the book series.

#55 - 1982-D George Washington Half Dollar Commemorative

In 1981, the numismatic hobby was hit with a surprise announcement that would specify a George Washington half dollar commemorative. It had been 27 years since the last commemorative was struck and coin collectors were beginning to wonder if they would ever see another one produced in their lifetime. Leave it to the Mint though to decide the perfect timing as the 250th Anniversary of Washington’s birth was coming up in 1982 as it was perceived as a monumental event that was worth commemorating.

Designed by the US Mint’s first woman Chief Engraver of the United States, Elizabeth Jones, the obverse of the half dollar features George Washington on horseback while the reverse depicts Mount Vernon, Washington’s home, and a heraldic eagle sitting beneath it. Another first for the commemorative? It was the first one to be struck in 90 percent silver since 1964, making it more similar to vintage commemoratives than any of the others to follow.

Although it has distinct similarities to coins of vintage proportion, the fact that it was to also have Proof and Uncirculated strikes made it more similar to modern coins than anything. Sales of the half dollar commemorative were not limited as they reached into 1985. The coin’s impact was so great that it won three awards including Coin of the Year, the Most Historically Significant Coin, and Most Popular in 1984.

This popular commemorative has not moved rankings since the publication’s second edition where it was moved down 16 spots from the first edition to #39.