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HomeUS Coins1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Proof : A Collector's Guide

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

After three years of Special Mint Sets and the transition from silver coinage to clad coinage, the United States Mint softened its anti-collector position and reintroduced its annual Uncirculated Coin Set and Proof Set programs. In what was a big change for Proof coinage, production shifted from the Philadelphia Mint to the United States Assay Office in San Francisco (formerly the San Francisco Mint). Proofs struck at San Francisco carry the S mint mark, and outside of a notable few Branch Mint Proofs issued in the 19th century, these were the first standard Proofs not struck in Philadelphia.

The coin-collecting public got their first glimpse of the sets on January 4, 1968, at a ceremony at the Denver Mint to mark the return of mint marks to United States coins. On display were two of the 1968-S Proof Sets.

Collectors and dealers hotly anticipated the new Proof Sets and purchased 3,041,506 sets at a cost of $5 each, which, in 2024 inflation-adjusted dollars, was $44.59. 1968 Proofs Sets sell for about 1/5th of that price, and largely only because the 1968-S Kennedy half dollar contains a little over $4 of silver (based on April 8, 2024 spot prices).

The 1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar – Collector Characteristics

The shift in production from the Philadelphia Mint to the San Francisco Assay Office did not lower the quality of the Proof coins. The new sets were packaged in an improved plastic hard case, allowing for easy viewing of the obverse and the coin’s reverse. This hard case fit snugly inside a royal blue cardboard envelope, on which UNITED STATES PROOF SET · 1968 was written in white letters at the bottom of the front side.

The Kennedy half dollar Proof was one of five coins included in the set. As a 40% silver-clad coin, the half dollar was noticeably brighter in appearance than the Jefferson nickel, the clad Roosevelt dime, and the Washington quarter. Most collectors would find their Proof coins to be brilliant when examining the sets. Occasionally, coins struck very early in a die’s deployment would exhibit some degree of Cameo frost. Only coins struck immediately following the deployment of freshly prepared obverse and reverse dies will exhibit Cameo on the obverse and reverse. Cameo 1968-S Kennedy half dollars are uncommon for this date, and Deep/Ultra Cameo examples are scarce.

It’s been more than 50 years since the 1968-S Proof Set was issued. Even though the case was an improvement over the soft packaging of the pre-1965 sets, the plastic sleeve was not airtight. Because of this, it is not unusual for these coins to tone or develop a light haze. The haze can be removed with professional curation.

What Is a 1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Worth?

To adequately answer this question, one must first establish the following criteria: is the goal to have one unimpaired Proof example, or is the goal to have a certified coin, preferably in high grade with Cameo or Ultra Cameo contrast?

If the answer is the former, then 1968-S Kennedy half dollars can be readily purchased for the cost of a 1968-S Proof Set, which is to say $10 to $15. With the purchase of the set, you get Proof versions of all five circulating coins released in 1968.

If the answer is to have a certified high end coin with Cameo or Deep/Ultra Cameo, then the cost of acquisition escalates dramatically.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS PR-70DCAM (16, 4/2024). NGC PF-69UC (716, 4/2024), and CAC None Graded (0:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

What’s interesting about the reported 16 coins in the PCGS PR70DCAM census report is that at least 15 of these coins was from one bulk submission. This submission yielded mostly PR69DCAM or PR70DCAM coins with some PR69CAM coins as well.

Beyond the coins listed in our auction data are certs 7733372, 7733374, 7733375 (Del Loy Hansen coin), 7733379, 7733380, 7733384, and 7733386. Auction data for these cert numbers begins to appear in the early 2000s.

The question is, where these coins accumulated in a major dealer effort to promote DCAM 1968-S Kennedy halves, and if so, how did they acquire nearly all of the perfect coins available? And why have no additional coins surfaced at this grade in the years since?

  • PCGS PR70DCAM #7733373: Stack’s Bowers, June 13, 2023, Lot 2026 – $24,000. Plate coin for this guide.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #83143320: Heritage Auctions, November 2, 2017, Lot 16790 – $21,600.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #7733324: Heritage Auctions, September 14 2006, Lot 2344 – $5,175; Heritage Auctions, June 1, 2012, Lot 4190 – $6,900; Heritage Auctions, November 8, 2018, Lot 3136 – $12,000. Unattractive brown spotted toning.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #7733390: Heritage Auctions, August 14, 2015, Lot 5287 – $10,575.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #7733387: “The Basque Guy #1 All-Time PCGS Registry Set,” Heritage Auctions, February 3, 2011, Lot 3852 – $5,175.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #07733378: Heritage Auctions, January 2009, Lot 6079 – $4,025; Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2011, Lot 5823 – $8,625.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #07733371: “The Kallenberg #1 PCGS Registry Set of Proof Half Dollars,” Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2008, Lot 2240 – $5,175.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #7733389: Heritage Auctions, September 19, 2003, Lot 7413 – $3,120; “The J.S. Hamilton Registry Set of Proof Kennedy Half Dollars,” Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2006, Lot 3172 – $3,737.50.

Interesting Varieties and Ephemera

The 1968-S half dollar has several interesting varieties to look for. Three of these varieties are listed in the fifth edition of The Cherrypicker’s Guide.

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Serif S/Knob S

VP-003. This variety was discovered in February 2018 by Florida coin dealer Bob Ryan. This Proof issue features an inverted “S” mintmark that is presumed to have last been used in the late 1940s.

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar, Doubled Die Obverse (FS-101)

Doubling is visible in the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

  • PCGS PR68CAM #19054474: Heritage Auctions, April 30, 2017, Lot 7760 – $646.25; Heritage Auctions, September 9, 2018, Lot 7483 – $408.
  • PCGS & NGC 5 Coin Lot (PR67-PR68; PF67CAM): Stack’s Bowers, January 12, 2022, Lot 92279 – $408.

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar, Inverted Mintmark (FS-511)

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar, Inverted S. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar, Inverted S mintmark. Image: Stack’s Bowers.
  • PCGS PR67 #82965047: Stack’s Bowers, April 4, 2017, Lot 8205 – $646.25.
  • NGC PF67 #3618559-001: Heritage Auctions, May 21, 2017, Lot 27134 – $540.50.
  • PCGS PR66 #43811497: Stack’s Bowers, May 18, 2022, Lot 92211 – $456.
  • PCGS PR66 #32749404: Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2016, Lot 8330 – $705.

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar, Doubled Die Reverse (FS-801)

Doubling is visible in the legend: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

  • PCGS PR67 #36011042: Stack’s Bowers, September 22, 2021, Lot 91243 – $360.
  • PCGS PR67 #13750644: “The Bristol Collection,” Heritage Auctions, September 11, 2016, Lot 7828 – $493.50.
  • PCGS PR67CAM #28296184: Heritage Auctions, November 1, 2015, Lot 7633 – $2,820.

1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Canceled Dies

New England Rare Coin Galleries ad offering cancelled 1968-S Proof coin dies as published in the October 1974 issue of The Numismatist.
New England Rare Coin Galleries ad offering canceled 1968-S Proof coin dies as published in the October 1974 issue of The Numismatist.

4,500 canceled dies used to strike 1968-S Proof Sets were sold into the collector market, presumably as scrap. After discovering this, the Mint invested over $50,000 in equipment to melt all future dies. New England Rare Coin Galleries sold several of these dies in 1974 at $24 each or 10 for $225.

1968-S Cancelled Proof Die. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1968-S Cancelled Proof Die. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold a complete set of Proof dies once belonging to collector Wayne A. Pratali for $164.50 at a June 20, 2013 auction.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1968
Denomination: Half Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 3,041,506
Alloy: .400 Silver, .600 Copper
Weight: 11.50 g
Diameter: 30.61 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Gilroy Roberts
REV Designer: Frank Gasparro
Quality: Proof

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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