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Hunt on for 1968-S proof half varieties

With the discovery of a 1968-S proof Kennedy half dollar with a standard “Serif S” punched over a “Knob-tailed S” (last used in 1948) announced and certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation in the April 18 issue, it is a good time to remind readers that there is yet another mintmark rarity for this particular proof coin that they should be looking for on their coins.

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An “Inverted S” mintmark left, first reported by Joe W. Crowder, is another rare variety found on 1968-S proof half dollars. Remember this while looking at the coins for the newly discovered “Serif S” punched over a “Knob-tailed S” variety discovered by NGC.

In 1997 Joe W. Crowder of Tennessee, reported a 1968-S proof half dollar exhibiting the first known example of a proof coin with an inverted mintmark. I reported it in Numismatic News back then.

However, despite the publicity, not a single specimen beyond the five pieces Crowder originally found were seen for several years. I reported this deficiency in a Collectors Universe (Now the PCGS Library) column in 1999 asking readers where they all were.

According to Crowder, he ordered 20 1968 proof sets directly from the Mint. He then put them away until later that year when the young lady next door graduated from high school and he pulled a set from a sealed box of five and gave it to her as a graduation gift.

It was at that point that he decided to take a closer look at the coins and noticed the mintmarks on the Kennedy half dollars in the remaining four sets in that box were inverted or upside-down. He went back to look at the set he had given away and learned that it too contained a Kennedy half with an inverted mintmark.

Crowder waited 30 years and finally decided to report the variety to the collecting public. A specimen was sent to me and upon its arrival there was no doubt his assertions were correct. The mintmark on this variety was unquestionably and obviously inverted. Crowder’s coin was one of a handful of Inverted Mintmark varieties that I have listed in my Variety Coin Register. I listed his as VCR#4/IMM#1.

Sometime later I received an email from Crowder asking if the variety is rare and what it might be worth. Frankly, while it had been some time since my first published reports and it would seem likely the absence of any additional finds suggests rarity, but such is not always the case. It is not unusual for varieties publicized in places like Numismatic News and other publications to be forgotten if there is no activity in terms of further finds, or a retail market develops.

A true test of just how many might exist and what kind of value might be established for a variety only occurs once a variety is listed in a reference like the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton, enough are initially found to get on dealer sell lists, or one is placed in high-profile auction. Once a coin is listed in a book, folks tend to place more importance on it. In a like manner, once it gets established as a retail item collectors tend to better remember the variety and search for it more often. I put the “Inverted S” variety in the Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties 5th Edition, Volume II, which I edited several years ago, which gave the coin a huge boost.

Since it had been some time since I researched this coin I decided to see what actual sales had occurred if any. What I learned is that PCGS has certified 20 specimens of this variety, which include some or all of Joe Crowder’s coins. Actual sales shown on PCGS Coin Facts are $400 for an PR65, $635 for another PR65 and $705 for a PR66; all sold in Heritage Auctions sales.

In private sales, Kennedy half specialist and CONECA member, Timothy A. Clough indicated he paid $1,200 for a PCGS PR67, another PCGS PR67 sold for $2,200 in a Teletrade Auction and the one PCGS specimen certified as PR68 sold for $2,500. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has certified 13 pieces with grades ranging from PR64 to PR67, with seven of them being MS67. No pricing information was available. I found no sales records for these. Others may have been sold through other auction houses that I am unaware of. It should be noted that some of the PGCS/NGC certified coins could represent crossovers already graded by one service and sent to the other by owners in hope of receiving a higher grade from the opposing service.

Michael White of ANACS told me that none have been certified by his firm.

With the new 1968-S “Serif S over Knob S” variety now being the newest thing to search for, it’s time to take a closer look to see if you have one of the “Inverted S” varieties too, but while you are looking you should know that there are two other Repunched Mintmarks known, and a significant Doubled Die Obverse and Doubled Die Reverse listed in Cherypickers’ Guide to search for. A few other significant doubled dies are also known but not in CPG.

Now would be a good time to take a second look at any 1968-S proof Kennedy halves have. Let NN editor Dave Harper know if you find anything significant at david.harper@fwmedia.com.

Ken Potter is a frequent contributor to “Numismatic News” and co-author of the book, “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change,” available from F+W Media. He has an educational image gallery on his website at http://koinpro.tripod.com.

 

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