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Half dollar’s time has passed

Remember the half dollar?

I do. I even try to spend one every now and again.

However, more than 40 years of disuse by the American public has taken its toll. I have to make a conscious effort to think of half dollars. It does not come automatically.

The half dollar is my topic this morning and it was selected for me by former American Numismatic Association president Gary E. Lewis.

After reading yesterday’s blog, he emailed me the following:

“My obvious observation when  you said  ‘I was due two quarters … ,’  what happened to the half dollar?”

Lewis has a logical question if this were 1963.

In 2011 the denomination just doesn’t count any longer, does it?

One of my early memories of the hobby occurred in the spring of 1964 when I stood in a long line at a bank in New Ulm, Minn., to get the new Kennedy half dollar.

The public went wild for that coin. It was a memento of a President who had been assassinated just four months before.

That was its undoing.

People saved it rather than spent it.

Shortly thereafter hoarding affected all half dollars because of the rising price of silver. The half dollar hoarding habit the public found hard to break. They basically never did.

Use of the denomination plummeted over time and nowadays just cranks and coin collectors use the coin.

During the financial crisis in 2009 I decided to spend a Mint bag of $100 of 2002 half dollars. I had bought it to see how the Mint packaged and shipped it and to see what kind of quality the coins had. I even looked for errors.

Then I forgot about it for seven years.

I decided that when everybody was worried about earning money of any kind it was a good opportunity to spend the coins into circulation.

Most of them I spent at the Crystal Cafe and never once was one returned as change.

You can prime the pump, but some wells are just dry.

The half dollar’s time is gone. It should be abolished.

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3 Responses to Half dollar’s time has passed

  1. Tom Snyder says:

    For a while even before the Kennedy halfs, people would hand back

    a half dollar and ask for two quarters. Because two quarters were

    very handy to use in vending machines, most of which did not

    accept the half dollars. Now the quarter is the work horse like

    the nickel used to be. It is high time for some currency reforms.

  2. Vachon says:

    Given how many quarters I have to dump into washing machines (some of the large units take 16!), you’d think the laundromats would dispense halves just to reduce the amount of time it takes to prime the machine.

    I give them out in change and never ask my customers if they want one first. My observations after eight years of doing so is that the half dollar is rejected as change about 2% of the time which is about the same rate of rejection I get for any other denomination (such as $10 bills – "may I have two fives instead?" – I don’t assume people don’t want $10 bills because of that yet people will leap to that conclusion with half dollars). However, I am almost never paid with them so either they’re being spent elsewhere or simply kept. But I am only one man doing it. If my whole store gave them out, they’d be a presence in the community and get used. Vending machine companies would do well to accept and dispense them. Of course it would help if 25¢ and 50¢ could actually buy something. All our coins are basically worthless.

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