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Gold Kennedy half a step too far

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Strike a gold 2014 John F. Kennedy half dollar for his presidential library. Strike one for the Smithsonian Institution, but don’t strike any for collectors.

I wrote a story for last week’s Numismatic News Express to reveal that the Mint is considering striking 50,000 gold Kennedy half dollars for collectors as part of the observance of the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the coin in 1964.

The Mint said such a coin would cost $1,200 to $1,300 each.

No decision has been made yet, that’s why I am weighing in now. I did not receive one of the surveys sent to 60,000 Mint customers. Depending on how recipients responded by the Feb. 18 deadline, the Mint will make a decision.

Count me as a supporter of special issues to mark the Kennedy half dollar’s 50th anniversary.

I like the idea of a special four-coin clad set from Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point with a variety of finishes. That is a great idea. The suggested price point of $15 is also wonderful.

A four-coin silver set with a variety of finishes is another idea that I like even as the suggested price point is $100. The price is still within the realm of affordability for the great mass of coin collectors, especially those who like me remember the tragic events that led to the creation of the Kennedy half dollar in the first place.

Though I commend the Mint for embracing the idea of special Kennedy coins in 2014, I feel the gold proposal is a step too far.

At $1,300, this becomes a very high end collectible that we would all be better off without.

The suggested mintage of 50,000 might at first blush look low, but it really is not.

At the $1,300 price, the Mint would ask the collector community to come up with $65 million. That’s huge. That’s more than collectors paid for the enormously popular individual 2013 proof and uncirculated silver American Eagle collector coins combined.

It would be better for the long-term health of the hobby if collectors could be allowed to keep their money to use for other products.

Already numismatics is being tagged more and more as solely a rich man’s game. With bullion coins, this can’t be helped.

What can be helped is to keep Kennedy 50th anniversary issues accessible to most collectors who want to fulfill a desire to mark the anniversary and to do so with the collector sense of completeness. A gold coin renders the idea of completeness impossible for most.

If the Mint is perceived as undertaking a program that is over the top, that is not good. It will alienate future customers.

I think it would be better to encourage a couple of million customers to spend $100 to $300 a year for many years than to make them feel as if they are always in the shadow of high rollers. A gold Kennedy would cast a big shadow and that I cannot support.

 

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