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Coin Clinic: Kennedy half collected most at release

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By Richard Giedroyc

The statement was made some time ago that the Kennedy half is the “most collected coin in the world.” Is this still true?

This was probably around the time the Kennedy half dollar was first released and people went mad for it around the world. But most of that activity could be classed as hoarding, rather than collecting. Cents likely were the most collected coin, but silver dollars have come on strong in the past 30 years.

I recently saw a description of a 1913 Buffalo nickel, as having a proof- like surface, but no “F” designer’s initial. Was the information correct?

Walter Breen is quoted as saying a very small quantity of Type I 1913 Buffalo nickels were struck without the “F.” Four of them, two each from two different dies, are in the Smithsonian.

What’s the basis for the eagle and moon design on the reverse of the Ike dollar?

It was adapted by the Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro from the official Apollo 11 logo design used to mark the historic first landing on the moon, July 20, 1969. The eagle serves the dual purpose of fulfilling the design requirements for U.S. coins and reminding us of the famous statement, “The Eagle has landed,” broadcast from the moon.

Why was it made illegal to hold gold in the 1930s?

Government officials believed that private holding and hoarding of gold threatened the stability of the economy. The concept didn’t die with the rescinding of the orders prohibiting gold ownership in 1974. Some of the same thinking is still around, if dormant for the moment. Though it would make an interesting inquiry to see if average people view gold as having the same importance as in the past. Collectors and bullion investors certainly do.

Were there any Trade dollars in the General Services Administration sales, or in the bags released at face value by the Treasury in the 1960s?

Apparently not. Several bags of Seated Liberty dollars were reported in the over-the-counter sales from the Treasury, but all the Trade dollars had been melted. None was reported in the GSA listings for its sales.

Is there any historical parallel for our current non-circulating half dollars?

Since the demise of the 90 percent silver half dollar in 1964, the half dollar has become a non-starter as far as pocket change is concerned. This is not the first instance however, as prior to about 1830 halves rarely circulated. Their principal use was for interbank transfers and storage of funds as larger coins were melted for their bullion content.

How many complete 1953 proof sets are still around?

That’s one of those questions that nobody can answer. It is impossible to determine the number. Over the years thousands of the sets have been broken up, just as sets for other dates have been cracked open. It is an important reminder that the package doesn’t determine the value of coins in the long run.

Is there a U.S. coin with a whale on it?

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The whale has been somewhat neglected as a coin design. We have dolphins, but the only whale is on the Hudson commemorative half dollar of 1935.

Were there any medals issued for Social Security?

There were several different medals after 1935, when the Social Security law was enacted. Most of the medals were made with a place to engrave your Social Security number. The law as enacted started out as a one percent tax on up to $3,000 in annual income.

Why are most of the Civil War tokens dated 1863, with only a relative few dated 1864?

The tokens were outlawed by Congress April 22, 1864. The law did not address those already in circulation, but prohibited any new issues. As a result a few were minted with the wrong date to evade the law.

An old newspaper clipping says the first Mint building was torn down in 1965. This doesn’t seem right.

The full story is that a building at 7th and Filbert St., (which was built on the site of the first Mint in 1911) was torn down in 1965. The building had a stone carving on the facade which read “– OLD MINT BUILDING – 1792,” but with six three-foot Indian Head cents carved next to it. An obvious fake, but enough to fool a newspaper reporter and editor.

What’s the background on the medal for “Cleopatra’s Needle?”

The title is a misnomer, as the obelisk dates to 1475 B.C. It is one of two similar stone carvings, (the other is in London) brought out of Egypt in 1880. William H. Vanderbilt paid the moving expense and the medal was struck to mark the placement of the monument in New York City in that year. Renovations have begun on the monument.

What was the purpose of the 2 and 4 on each side of the star on the Missouri commemorative half dollar?

The 24 represented the 24th state, added to the coin as a promotional stunt. The 24 appeared only on the first 5,000 struck and then was removed from the hub. This forced buyers to buy one with and one without the 24. They sold for twice face value at the 1921 state fair.

What happened to Miss Liberty as a U.S. coin design motif?

Miss Liberty fell victim to politics. She last appeared on U.S. coins in 1947. For the following year’s half dollar, Ben Franklin nudged her out of the picture. She made a return engagement, beginning with the 1986 American Eagles.

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