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Coin collecting meant freedom to me

The tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy 54 years ago still evokes sadness.

It also evokes many questions about how and why it happened.

One thing is certain, it inspired the creation of the Kennedy half dollar.

It is a coin that was authorized by Congress in record time. The legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson before Christmas that year.

National mourning united the country.

It created a huge interest in the pending half dollar.

By the time it was released toward the end of March 1964, the public was primed to act.

I was one of them.

I wanted the new half dollar.

I was eight years old.

A local bank in New Ulm, Minnesota, where I lived at the time, released the new coin. The supply was rationed. Each person could get just two of the new coins.

Further, the bank would sell two new coins for 90 cents if you paid for them with change of your own.

This was a time of the national coin shortage.

The bank was getting good publicity for the offer and getting a new supply of coins.

I was aware of this. I was ready.

My mother made it easy.

She said she would give me the 90 cents if one of the halves would go to my brother.

I agreed. I was off.

My mother did not take me.

I went on my own.

I stood in a long line. I don’t remember how many people were ahead of me. It seemed huge.

But I waited. I got my halves.

I still have the one that I took home that day.

My brother got his under the terms of the deal.

Being sad over the passing of the President still seems real to me.

But I am even more sad that the 8-year-olds of today cannot enjoy the freedom I had to go places and do things without being closely supervised.

Perhaps if coin collecting today still offered that kind of freedom to 8-year-olds, more of them would become collectors.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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