So Called Dollar – Santa Monica Breakwater Dedication Medal HK687

This so-called dollar is in excellent shape; I would grade it EF45 to AU55. It has a slightly leaden surface, which comes from mild toning of the aluminum (aluminum is highly reactive with oxygen and sensitive to moisture).

The obverse shows ships sheltering behind the newly built break wall at Santa Monica pier. There are four fingers of the pier pointed upward at a right angle to the pier. The legend from 9:00 to 6:00 across the upper register reads “Souvenir Breakwater 1933” and continues from 9:00 to 6:00 on the lower register, reading “Santa Monica, Calif”.

Medal - SCD - Santa Monica Breakwater Obverse

Medal - SCD - Santa Monica Breakwater Obverse

The medal shows a concrete bib style breakwater… which was accurate for only a few minutes. The fancy breakwater that had been financed with $609,000 of city money broke in half almost in the midst of the dedication ceremony… and was replaced with a packed rock breakwater of mostly lightweight Catalina stone. The replacement was completed on July 6th, 1934 almost 17 months after the original dedication ceremony (on March 25, 1933). The final dedication took place amid 9 days of boat racing at the Pacific Coast and Southern California regattas.

The reverse shows a flapper in 1930’s swimwear dipping her feet into the water and leaning back on one arm. The skyline behind shows a boardwalk with carnival entertainments (including what looks like a wooden rollercoaster). The legend on my medal reads “Souvenir from California’s Playground” (from 8:00 to 4:00), with “Ocean Park” written in the style of ocean waves underneath the swimmer, and a trademark that reads “L.A.R.S. CO. 10”. Some of the medals lack this trademark, and some have different numbers (from 1 to 14).

Medal - SCD - Santa Monica Breakwater Reverse

Medal - SCD - Santa Monica Breakwater Reverse

Identification code: HK-687

Date: 1933

Mint Mark: n/a

Mintage: unknown (but fairly large). Rated as R-4 in the 2nd edition of the So-Called Dollars Illustrated Catalog by Hibler, Kappen, Hoffman, Hayes, Brecher, & Dean.

Country of origin: United States of America (minted by the now defunct Los Angelos Rubber Stamp Company, which later became the LA Stamp & Stationery Company and went bankrupt in the 1960s).

Composition: Aluminum

Size: 38mm

Weight: unknown

Other details: At various times in its history, the Santa Monica Pier has been both a highlight and a disgrace to the city. This medal was made at a time that the pier and nearby yacht club were at their ritzy heights, but the pier had to be preserved from intentional destruction in 1973. For decades, it was  poorly maintained and the area had become a blight by the 1980s. The area around the pier was filled seedy biker bars and head shops housed in ramshackle buildings. The pier itself had dilapidated bars, an odd plaster statue store, and creepy game arcades.

The city put off repairing the breakwater that protected the pier and the so-called ‘yacht harbor’ immediately north. Studies were made for rehabilitation of the pier and repair of the breakwater, but the plans were never carried out. In 1983, a serious of major winter storms struck Santa Monica between January 27th and March 1st. The storms destroyed more than a third of the pier, along with stores, bars, cars, and a large crane brought in to begin repairs. Three interesting buildings owned by the city were abandoned and destroyed, including the Sinbad’s Restaurant that featured a large whale’s tale in the facade.

This spurred the city to intervene. Rebuilding the pier was a major and controversial effort, which ultimately cost $43 million dollars. The city did the work along with a redevelopment plan for the failed Santa Monica Mall (now the Santa Monica Promenade). The project was completed in 1989 and has proven to be a huge financial success. Between 1988 and 1998, taxable sales in the city grew 440%, quadrupling city revenues. Retails rents in the development area also quadrupled. More than $500 million of private money has been invested into the Promenade and the adjacent streets in the Bayside District Corporation business association.

Estimated Value: $30-40

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