One would have to wonder what went wrong with the sales projections for a half dollar commemorative coin that honors the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam. Only 18,028 of the half dollars have been sold. The Battle of Antietam was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. When the battle was over more than 23,00 were killed, wounded or missing.
Historian have debated much over the years exactly how important the Battle of Antietam was to the outcome of the Civil War. But there is little doubt that it has loomed large. There is little to fault in terms of the historic meaning of the battle, and there is equally little to fault with the design of this half dollar. This commemorative half dollar was designed by William Mark Simpson. The design depicts opposing generals George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee on the obverse. On the reverse is a depiction of the Burnside Bridge, which was the center of much of the battle.
It is really hard to predict which commemorative coins will be hits and which ones will turn out to be duds. Back in 1937 at the time the Antietam half dollar was issued, there was a Gettysburg half dollar issued the previous year and it sold 26,928 pieces. If you consider other half dollars that commemorated Civil War events, there was the Stone Mountain half dollar issued in 1925, which produced sales of 1,314,709 pieces.
Of course it might not be fair to compare the Stone Mountain half dollar to the Antietam half dollar, since the Stone Mountain half dollar had apparently captured the publicís interest. Of course no one expected the Antietam half dollar to come close to beating sales of the Stone Mountain half dollar. But most would have predicted that its sales would have come close to that of the Gettysburg commemorative half dollar.
The fact that 50,000 Antietam half dollar were produced suggests that officials thought that sales of an even higher number would be possible. No one really likes to over produce commemorative coins that would have to be melted down. The question remains: Why were the sales of the Antietam coins so low? One reason may have been that the Antietam half dollar did not have the dedicated sales network that existed for the Stone Mountain half dollar. Probably the major reason for the low sales was the overabundance of commemorative coins in the two years prior to the issue date of the Antietam half dollar.
This often happens to some commemorative coins if there is a bunch of other commemorative coins issued prior to its release. This is what happened to the Antietam half dollar. It just didnít get the exposure other commemorative coins often get.