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Collectors take half measures

Whether or not the half dollar is abolished in the near future, it is fair to ask if there is any economic benefit to having the coin.

Since the early 2000s, the half dollar has been struck by the Mint for direct sale to collectors in bags and rolls.

Collectors still have an emotional attachment to the denomination.

I recall standing it line at a bank to obtain the first of the 1964 Kennedy half dollars in March of that first year of issue. I hadn’t even made it to the age of 9, yet I participated in this national event without the assist of any adults.

I walked to the bank by myself. I stood in the long line by myself. I felt the sense of triumph when I was given the maximum of two coins.

It still makes me feel good.

It was a step toward taking greater responsibility for myself.

I found a 1938-D Walking Liberty half dollar. It wasn’t exactly a circulation find. A neighbor let me search her little hoard. All I had to do was trade one for one.

She knew I was filling a Whitman album. I will always be grateful to her for that boost.

In recent years I have even purchased one of the half dollar bags to see how much I would enjoy looking at the coins.

I don’t think I will do it again.

However, the activity was a walk down memory lane.

Half dollars in recent years were used at a few casinos.

That contribution to economic activity seems to have come to an end.

An email yesterday came from a reader who saw half dollars offered on TV honoring the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek".

I checked the offer on the firm’s website.

The coins appear to be stickered with the underlying piece unharmed.

I have no objection to businesses that create numismatic souvenirs. I expect a few future collectors might begin with them.

This can be considered a contribution to the economy.

In 2016, the Mint has struck 4.2 million halves. That’s $2.1 million face value.

For comparison, the other face value totals of 2016 coinage are:

Cent: $64.6 million

Nickels: $54.12 million

Dimes: $111.7 million

Quarters: $438.08 million

Dollars: $37.8 million

Obviously, the half dollar is a serious laggard.

Whether this is enough to lead to its abolition is probably not the issue. As long as collectors stay emotionally attached to the coin, it will continue to come off the presses.

After all, if collectors didn’t buy them, mintages would tumble even from current low levels and the coin would essentially abolish itself.