Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
Old Spanish Trail 1535–1935 Commemorative Half-Dollar (1935)
Hola! It's me, Goldie the Mint Fish, with an August coin that reflects our nation's Spanish heritage. It's the Old Spanish Trail Commemorative half-dollar, and it honors the 400th anniversary of the overland trek known as the Cabeza de Vaca Expedition from Florida to El Paso, Texas in 1535.
Cabeza de Vaca was one of many Spaniards who explored Florida for Spain. On August 28, 1526, on the feast day of the Catholic saint, Augustine, another band of Spaniards arrived and created the first American city. That's right—the city of St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the U.S., settled decades before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock or the English settled Jamestown, Virginia.
St. Augustine remained Spanish until 1763, when Spain traded it to the British for Havana, Cuba. The British kept the town for 20 years, during which Florida remained loyal to England, then gave it back to Spain in 1783. Finally, Spain sold St. Augustine to the United States in 1821. Today, this bustling city and beach resort on Florida's east coast reflects its British and Spanish heritage in architecture, food and many other ways.
It's interesting to think about how much of our early history is Spanish, and the August coin is a good reminder of that fact. It's also an interesting coin to collect. It was designed by a coin dealer named L.W. Hoffecker, who was also involved in the distribution and sales of the coins.