Last week we talked about Pass and Stow and the liberty bell. Did you know there was another coin, earlier than the Franklin half dollar and the Eisenhower dollar, with the image of the Liberty Bell on its reverse?
Let’s show the coins’ reverse images with the Eisenhower Bicentennial Dollar first, then the Franklin Half Dollar and finally the half dollar from 1926.
The third coin, but the first with the Liberty Bell design, recognized the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1926. The coin’s outer rim on the reverse reads, “SESQUICENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE” along with “HALF DOLLAR.”
The US Mint’s chief engraver, John R. Sinnock, developed the Liberty Bell for the 1926 half dollar’s reverse from designs by John Frederick Lewis.
Unfortunately, the 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence half dollar’s design had a low relief. Through wear, the coins did not maintain their designs well. Remember, the early commemoratives were not protected in the clear capsules like they are today.
Just a few years later, Mr. Sinnock revised his Liberty Bell design for the reverse of a new half dollar. In the press release for the Franklin Half dollar dated January 7, 1948, the US Mint notes:
“The Liberty Bell representation on the reverse of the coin was adapted by Mr. Sinnock from one which he modeled for a commemorative half dollar issued for the Sesquicentennial of American Independence in 1926. The bell is suspended from its familiar wooden beam, with the time-honored crack in the bell discernible. The lettering E Pluribus Unum is inscribed at one side of the bell, and the American eagle appears at the other.”
In comparison, you’ll notice the Franklin half dollar has a much higher relief in its design, however you still cannot easily read the “PASS AND STOW” lettering on the side.
For the 1976 bicentennial coins – the quarter, half dollar and dollar, a nationwide coin design competition yielded the winning designs the Mint used on the coins.
The US Mint awarded Dennis R. Williams of Columbus, Ohio submission of the Liberty Bell and Moon design for the Eisenhower dollar reverse. His initials, DRW, can be seen to the right of the bell’s clapper.
Perhaps the larger size of the Eisenhower dollar yields the easier to read lettering on the bell. Or, it could be that improvements in the engraving and minting processes allowed the design to be more clearly seen.
Either way, the three coins’ reverse images provide an easily recognizable icon of our history in the Liberty Bell with its crack and the lettering by the founders, John Pass and John Stow.