By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy half dollar, and the Mint has plans to issue special coins and sets to honor the occasion. This is an important anniversary for collectors of American coins because of the longstanding popularity of the JFK halves. President Kennedy is the most widely admired modern American president, and Kennedy halves have always had special appeal for both coin collectors and others who admire the slain president. Congress authorized the new coins a little over a month after JFK’s death, and the new coins were struck in January 1964. As soon as they were released in March 1964, millions of Americans began hoarding them when received in change. The silver versions, especially the 90% silver ones from 1964, are also popular for bullion stacking, and some people believe the 2014 anniversary will give those coins more of a premium than they currently have over melt value, which is not very much apart from high grade examples. And the design, especially the JFK bust on the obverse, is widely admired as a great one.
Last year the Mint surveyed collectors about several different possible JFK coin sets in clad and silver, which would involve coins with different mintmarks and finishes, and one with a limited mintage and another with an unlimited mintage. These sets would include several firsts like the first reverse proof coin of this type. Comments from the Mint’s Acting Director, Richard Peterson at the August World’s Fair of Money in Chicago about that venue being a good one to roll out major new Mint offerings seemed to suggest that the JFK sets might be released at this year’s summer show. The JFK coins are widely expected to be the hottest 2014 U.S. Mint product, much like last year’s Buffalo gold reverse proof $50 coins and the West Point special American silver eagle sets.
Mint officials told CoinWeek that they will be issuing a number of different JFK half dollar anniversary products during the year, but that no final decisions have been made. This week the Mint sent a new survey out to prospective buyers, which indicated they are also considering a possible gold coin in the size of the original half dollar coins, which they said would cost $1200-1300 based on current gold prices (meaning a premium of about $300-400) and have a 50,000 mintage , or possibly be minted to demand.
There is no question most collectors would prefer a limited mintage coupled with a household limit of some kind. Those limits may be impossible to produce 100% compliance, but they at least help level the playing field. Many collectors are still unhappy about the way in their view large dealers seemed to receive preferential treatment last year when the West Point sets were shipped out. If the JFK gold half dollar had no household limits, whatever the mintage, that would again make many buyers feel they would be likely to get locked out of purchasing a coin and might even discourage them from trying to order. Other world mints take steps to reduce speculation and encourage a fair distribution of major releases, and there is no reason the largest mint in the world can’t do the same.
At this point no decisions have been made, but there is already high interest in the possible gold coin. Even buyers who normally do not purchase gold coins because of their high cost have indicated they plan to buy this one, if it is issued.
The new survey also asks about interest in the silver and clad JFK half dollar sets. The first would include four coins with different finishes not normally associated with that Mint. For example, the proof coin would be struck at a mint other than the one in San Francisco. The set would cost around $15. The second set would be similar but struck in 90% silver like the 1964 coins, and it would cost about $100. There is no indication about mintage levels, or whether the coins would be made to demand. A combination of a clad set made to demand, and a silver set with a limited issuance would be an ideal way to allow people of all budgets to get a set, while still appealing to serious collectors who seek coins issued with limits.
The survey also asks about interest in changing the silver composition of coins currently issued in 90% silver such as commemorative silver dollars, and the coins that are in each year’s silver proof set, to pure, .999 silver, as is the case with American silver eagles. One interesting aspect to this issue is one question asks about interest in buying coins made of pure silver if the cost were the same as now, and another seeks to determine how raising the cost of the commemoratives by $2 and of the sets by $5 would impact the likelihood of buying such coins.
It also asked potential buyers about interest in some possible new products like various sizes of silver medals, and a Director’s set that would include a large silver medal for the first U.S. Mint Director, James Rittenhouse, and four smaller ones for each branch mint with an estimated cost of $200. Most Mint buyers strongly prefer coins over medals, but if the sets were housed in an attractive wooden case and had a limited run, I think they might do well.
It is always good to see the Mint taking the pulse of collectors and buyers of its product, and the U.S. Mint does this more than other major world mint, as far as I know. The only caveat is a lot of people interested in the Kennedy coins and sets thought that by now the Mint’s plans would be in place, or almost in place, and to many the new survey suggests they may be further away from actually issuing the coins than was previously thought.
My own view is that the clad and silver sets are probably moving forward and collectors can pretty much count on them, and I also think the gold coin will probably be issued when the Mint sees how much interest there is in it, though it may not be released until the latter part of the year. And keep in mind that other coins besides these will also be released. Last year the Mint ramped up production levels of the clad half dollars to levels not seen in many years, and many people have speculated that they minted extra 2014 halves in anticipation of the high interest in those coins this year, especially since clad circulation-type coins can be struck in one year and sold afterwards. One option that could be in the works, though this was not in the survey, is a set with a P and D clad half, a proof S half, and a silver Kennedy medal. I know I would order a couple of those, and that they would make nice gifts.
“Update: The Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission (www.ccac.gov) will hold a meeting on February 11,and the agenda includes discussion of “a 24K Gold Kennedy Half Dollar product.”
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, a number of different coin web sites in addition to being a contributor to “American Hard Assets magazine”. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.
I love the idea of a 24K version of the Kennedy Half. I do have a suggestion, though. Make it identical in diameter and thickness of the original 1964 90% silver, and let the weight fall where it may and price it accordingly. Don’t force it to a whole or neat fractional troy ounce weight.
That’s what I believe the plan is. The Mint has not indicated it would be an ounce coin. The original 90% silver coins have about .36 oz of silver, but gold is twice as dense as silver, hence the coins will have about .72 oz of gold, and the Mint suggested a price of $1200-1300, which means a couple hundred premium over a melt value of around $900. Of course it depends on where gold is when the coin is sold. Good luck waiting for $800/oz gold.
If you read that newsprint paper printed coin publication that Krause publishes (I don’t name competing publications on another publisher’s site) you’d know that the “fair inflation hedge” price of gold is right about $800 and anything above that is the current “panic speculative bubble” premium.
Oh NO……… We don’t ever mention Numismatic News or the “other guys” on CoinWeek. :-)
You can do what you want. I try to make a policy of not using one guy’s assets to promote another’s. Call it a personal preference. You will also never read any post by me that is self-serving of a business interest in which I have an interest personally. I don’t shill; I do analysis without actual or perceived self-interest.
Kurt – Relax. So serious about all this
However, I won’t be buying one this year, or any year until and unless gold’s bullion price starts approaching $800-$825.
Kurt…I suggest investing in a time machine to go back to 2006. That’s the only 800!gold you’ll ever see again. My hanks for the heads up…I’m gonna buy the coin you DON’T BUY. . LOL
I was told by serious people that I’d never see gold below $1500 too. How’s that working out for him/you. I am the guy who KNEW $1800-1900 gold was not only unsustainable, it was insane. Pro commodity traders are talking openly of gold well BELOW $800.
Louis, You mentioned “Other world mints take steps to reduce speculation and encourage a fair distribution of major releases, and there is no reason the largest mint in the world can’t do the same.”
What steps do they take?
I mentioned some of those steps in my last article, where I discussed the 2014 Latvian euro proof sets. The Latvian authorities ask dealers who get sets from them to limit purchases to one per customer and they also limit the number of sets each dealer/distributor can purchase from the Mint.
looking forward to some of the Kennedy issues this year but frankly the Mint can’t do simple math… 2013 was the actual 50th year for the production of the Kennedy half…also starting to see grading services putting out Kennedys with “50th Anniversary” labels, but again, they seem to be using any and every year with this label…wonder how long label will be available since whether anyone takes issue with the actual 50th anniversary, the US Mint is using 2014… we can be quite certain the label will appear on whatever the Mint comes up with this year…my main criticism to the PCGS label is that you have to look on the obverse of the holder to see the 50th anniversary designation while NGC’s is on the front as part of main descriptive label…
Jan, I can’t speak to the grading labels, but the practice at the Mint for anniversary issues is always to add the no. of years the coin has been produced. That is why the silver eagle 20th anniv. set was issued in 2006, not 2005.
Yet they got the math right in 1995 for the 10th issue with the 1995-W issue that only came with the gold set. Proving once again that the only things that lost the ability to do math during Y2K is the human population.
I don’t think the folks at the Mint are incapable of doing math. They are simply following the usual anniversary convention. A couple married in Jan. 1950 celebrates its 50th anniversary in Jan. 2000, not Jan. 1999.
Then how to you “‘splain” the fact that the 10th anniversary set was in 1995, but the 20th was in 2006? One of them has to be wrong, doesn’t it? My vote is that 1995, 2005, and 2013 for the JFK are the 10th, 20th, and 50th relevant years and NOT 2006 or 2014. 2014 is the 51st year of the JFK.
I don’t mean to take away from JFK and the importance of this coin, but I wanted to ask if the mint has considered changing any denomination in favor of minting a coin with Ronald Reagan on the obverse? This June or July it will be 10 years since he died.
J- Those kind of moves would require congressional action. Members of Congress periodically propose Reagan commemoratives, but so far nothing has gotten very far. However, the presidential $1 coins being issued will eventually include one for Reagan.
Yes, that’s what I thought too. The last two major changes to our coinage were the result of a president dying in office (Kennedy and FDR). I guess as a collector I am just ready for something new. Unfortunately with my budget I cannot afford the beautiful gold and new silver commemoratives. A teacher in Texas does not make a lot. :P
J- A lot of us are tired of the so-called “dead presidents” currency, though there is still a constituency for such coins.
I hear you on affordability, but remember there will be a $15 clad set with some unique coins and other lower priced options during the year.
I’m selling my base metal coins and upgrading to gold. With the dollar “backed by the full faith ans credit of the United States Government.” I can see gold rising to $5,000.00 an ounce.