by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
John F. Kennedy remains one of the most admired and beloved presidents in American history as the 50th anniversary of his assassination, which will be on November 22, approaches. Already the Republic of San Marino, the oldest constitutional republic in the world and one of the smallest countries, is issuing a special 2 euro coin to honor the anniversary this spring, and pre-orders for that coin are selling well on e-Bay.
At the time of his death Americans were so grief-stricken that plans for a special circulating coin to honor him were made quickly, and the coin has been issued ever since 1964, although it is now only made for collectors and sold in annual proof and mint sets and in rolls at a premium.
No decisions have been made by the Mint. A survey has been sent to some Mint customers asking them about their preferences for various set options, and the Mint shared with me the various options they are considering.
The Mint may issue both silver and clad sets with coins from different branch mints, and the sets may include reverse proof coins. Both a silver reverse proof and a clad reverse proof half dollar would be firsts, and I am sure many collectors will be eager to acquire such coins and sets, even if they do not collect the series.
The sets will include a special booklet on the history of the JFK half dollar that was authorized by Congress a little over a month after President Kennedy’s death.
Some people will, and are already, grumbling that this is another ploy by the Mint to separate collectors from their money, but the same thing could be said about anything the Mint issues for collectors. Besides, no one has to buy anything they don’t want to buy.
Others will say this will mean there are too many different types of Kennedy halves to collect, a curious argument since most collectors enjoy such diversity.
Yet that was the reaction of Coin World editor Steven Roach recently to the enhanced uncirculated American silver eagle that will be included in the West Point silver eagle set that goes on sale on May 9. He said it would be confusing and complicate the series, especially to less experienced collectors.
The Mint is evaluating customer interest in a broad variety of special JFK half dollar set options.
The first option would be a 4-coin 90% silver set with each coin made as a reverse proof, and coins would be minted at the West Point, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Denver mints. The coins would come in a special presentation case and include the booklet mentioned above.
The second possibility is a set with clad halves in proof minted at West Point, Philadelphia, and Denver, and one silver reverse proof coin plus the special case and booklet.
The third option is a three-coin set with a clad proof, clad reverse proof, and an uncirculated clad coin each bearing a mintmark for where they were minted, but no decisions have been made on which branch mint would issue the coins, and they would also include the booklet.
Fourth, a silver version of option three with a 90% silver proof, reverse proof, and uncirculated coins plus the booklet, and again no decision yet on where they would be minted.
The fifth possibility would be a two-coin set in clad with a clad proof and clad reverse proof coin with mintmarks to be determined later plus the booklet.
Finally, a silver two-coin set with a proof and reverse proof with mintmarks to be determined later and the booklet.
It is not clear at this point whether the sets would have limited mintages, or be issued to demand and sold during a limited window like the special silver eagles sets for 2012 and 2013.
One coin forum posting quoted from the survey and said that the 4-coin silver set would be sold to demand and priced at $77.95, while the 4-coin clad set would be limited to 100,000 units and priced at $16.95.
Initial reaction is mostly very positive about these possible sets, which is not surprising. The JFK half is indeed a great coin, and an easy one to collect since only a few coins are hard to find. But it is also a coin that has been issued continuously for 50 years, and it makes sense to do something special and different for the anniversary.
I know I would be very interested in these sets, which I think would be a nice way to mark an important moment on our history.
My preference would be to issue both the 4-coin silver set and the 3-coin clad set, but to make the silver set limited to 100,000 sets, and to make the clad set to demand since more people would be able to afford the clad set, which should therefore have a higher mintage. In addition, if the regular clad half is also issued next year, for one-year only it should be put into circulation to stir up more interest in modern coins and in the Kennedy half series.
Please indicate in the comments what your preference would be, and if we get a lot of responses I will forward them to the Mint.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. 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.