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Anniversary combines with coins

What were you doing when you heard the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963?

What were you doing when you heard the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963?


That is a question for my generation and older to ask this year as we reach the 50th anniversary of the event in Dallas, Texas.

I was in school. I had become ill at lunch and was alone in my classroom waiting for my mother’s arrival in order to go home.

Sitting there at my desk, I heard the announcement over the public address system that the President had been shot. I don’t remember the words. I just remember the impact.

I was home shortly thereafter with a fever that was the highest I had ever had in my life with my mother on the telephone to the doctor.

I was propped up on the couch so I could watch television. It was nothing but news bulletins. I was disappointed that I couldn’t watch something more appealing to me as a kid.

I napped. I watched the television. The weekend passed in much the same manner. It was a big deal. That much my third-grade mind knew.
The memories of that weekend influenced my coin collecting. My world had stopped. Illness emphasized it. I could not go outside and play. It was all quiet and gloom.

A few months later when the Kennedy half dollar was released, I knew I had to have it. I went to the bank to get one. An additional part of my task was to get one for my younger brother. My reward was that my mother paid for both coins.

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I stood in a long line. People were well behaved. They didn’t seem to consider it unusual for a kid to be there alone. I waited my turn. I got my two coins and went home.

Would I have done that if I did not remember those bad days the prior November? I don’t know. I do know that it was the first time I had ever been to a bank by myself. It certainly would not be the last time. In the coming years I became a very familiar face to bank tellers.

Those were my first steps as an active collector as opposed to a passive one. I went out specifically to acquire something related to my interest in coins. I did it on my own. I succeeded. I would want to do things like this again and again throughout my life. In tragedy, there was promise.

I was not then a half dollar collector. I did not become one until about three years later when I had some income from my paper route. But there is no question that the seed was planted.

These are my memories. What about yours? I would like to be able to report details this week about how the Mint will mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy half dollar next year, but they simply do not yet exist. The decisions have not yet been made.

However, in whatever the Mint chooses to do, I will be very interested. The impressions and experiences of a half century ago will be very much alive to me as I consider any Kennedy coin offerings that are made available to collectors.

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