Classic Coins - San Francisco
Oakland Bay Bridge Opening Half Dollar
The US Mint produced the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Opening Half Dollar Classic Commemorative Coin to
celebrate the opening of the Bay Bridge to carry traffic across the bay in November of 1936.
Characteristics - size, weight, metal content, value range
Obverse - picture, description, artist
Reverse - picture, description, artist
Commentary - coin notes, mintage information, historical comments, fun
On June 26, 1936, the second session of the 74th Congress approved an act which became Public Law
74-820 that authorized "the coinage of 50-cent pieces in celebration of the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland
The law began, "That in celebration of the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge there shall be coined
at a mint of the United States to be designated by the Director of the Mint not to exceed two hundred thousand
silver 50-cent pieces of standard size, weight, and composition, and of a special appropriate single design to be
fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, but the United States shall
not be subject to the expense of making the necessary dies and other preparations for this coinage.
"SEC. 2. The coins herein authorized shall bear the date 1936, irrespective of the year in which they are minted
or issued, shall be legal tender in any payment to the amount of their face value, and shall be issued only upon
the request of the San Francisco Clearing House Association, upon payment by it of the par value of such coins, but
not less than twenty-five thousand such coins shall be issued to it at any one time and no such coins shall be
issued after the expiration of one year after the date of enactment of this Act. Such coins may be disposed of at
par or at a premium by such association and the net proceeds shall be used by it in defraying the expenses
incidental and appropriate to the celebration of such event."
The law continues in Section 3 stating that all laws already in place applying to coinage shall also apply to
Characteristics - San Francisco Oakland
Bay Bridge Opening Half Dollar
Metal Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Diameter - millimeters: 30.6
Diameter - inches: 1.2
Weight - grams: 12.5
Weight - troy ounce: 0.401884332
Silver content weight - troy ounce: 0.3617
Mint Locations: San Francisco
Years Minted: 1936
The coin's silver content alone makes it more valuable than its face value of $0.50.
But, the coin's age, its condition, and its desirability make it even more valuable as a collectible.
The coin's estimated value ranges from $115 (low grade - XF) to $350 (high grade - MS-66).
Extraordinary characteristics on the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Opening Half Dollar can command a price
outside the estimated value range.
Obverse - San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Opening
The obverse or front of the coin shows a grizzly bear, the symbol of California.
The coinage inscriptions say, United States of America, In God We Trust, Liberty, and Half Dollar.
Artist: Jacques Schnier
Reverse - San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Opening
The reverse or back of the coin features a view of the bridge showing the historic Ferry Tower in the
foreground, Yerba Buena Island and East Bay Hills in the distance along with several working ships.
The coinage inscriptions read San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1936.
Artist: Jacques Schnier
Commentary - San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge
Opening Half Dollar
The stated mintage was "not to exceed two hundred thousand silver 50-cent pieces" and "coined at a mint."
Records show the San Francisco Mint produced 71,424 of the San Francisco Oakland Bay
Bridge Opening half dollar coins.
SEC 2 of the law specified "not less than twenty-five thousand such coins shall be issued" at any one time.
Thus, several coins (75,000 minus 71,424 equals 3,576) were returned and melted for recoinage.
The coin pictured above resides in an PCGS holder and is graded as an MS-65. (PCGS is Professional Coin Grading
Versions of the coin also exist across a variety of the grades.
As early as California's Gold Rush Days in the 1840s, people talked of needing a bridge spanning the San
Some even considered an underwater tunnel, but they decided it would be too restrictive for
With the advent of cars and trucks and increased traffic needs, efforts became more focused on
building the bridge.
After significant lobbying of the United States Congress, California was finally granted permission to build the
Bay Bridge in February 1931.
Engineering discussions for the new bridge considered the bay too wide and too deep to be feasible for most
To off set costs and make the bridge easier to build, they decided to use Yerba Buena Island and build spans on
Still considered as an impressive engineering structure, Charles H. Purcell held the Chief
Engineer position over an engineering team for complex the bridge, which was build by the American Bridge
One steelworker, Al Zampa, described the bridge as his favorite bridge, “Two suspensions end to end, six
different kinds of bridges, 8 ¼ miles long, deepest piers in the world. We lost 24 men; we dangled up there like
monkeys driving shot iron. No net. You fell, that was it. They thought we was all crazy.”
If there was a race in bridge building, the Bay Bridge won since it carried traffic in November 1936, six
months before the Golden Gate Bridge.
The opening celebrations lasted five days and included a boat parade, Navy air show, yacht regatta, Navy
ship race, air parade of China Clippers, football games plus other activities.
History notes that over one million people attended the opening parade with a local paper reporting the event
as "the greatest traffic jam in the history of San Francisco."
People in the bay area celebrated the bridge's 75th anniversary, called “The Year of the Bay Bridge,” from
November 2011 to November 2012 with a variety of celebrational activities.
Find more information about the history of the bridge and its timeline on the Bay Bridge Info web site - including a picture of the original models for the San Francisco
Oakland Bay Bridge Opening half dollar.
Visit our GACS Numismatic Shoppe San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge
Opening for a variety of useful items decorated with images of the classic commemorative silver half dollar