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Viewpoint: Kennedys hold memories, little profit

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

By Thomas Jillson

Thank you for your weekly editorial regarding Kennedy half dollars.

I have been collecting Kennedys ever since we wrapped around the bank doors when the 1964s were released to get them. I say “we” in the global sense of every collector that was collecting in the mid-20th century and those who were not collectors but were John F. Kennedy fans.

I actually entered the silver market in the late 1970s when a couple brothers attempted to corner the silver market and caused the value to shoot up to the $50 per ounce level. I was a traveling salesman (selling paint and other stuff) and spent several weeks in and out of banks to buy all the rolls of 50-cent pieces I could find, removed the silver ones, and kept on going to the next bank to get more. At the end of each day, I visited my local coin dealer and turned them in for cash, which I used to fund the next day’s visits to more banks. I have no idea how much money I made during those weeks.

That process aside, I got hooked on purchasing new rolls of halves every year since. The Mint is the only direct source for these coins (as they are for all new-issue mintage) – and yes, they sell them even now to collectors at an outrageous up-charge, plus shipping, with the mint-wrapped label showing the mint location and the year of issue.

Sometime within the past 20 years or so, the mint stopped delivering any of these coins into the banking system and started to sell them only to the collector market.

Your comments regarding the disdain that dealers express when collectors try to turn them in for profit is very accurate – face value at best. I even know some that think they can actually discount them from face value to cover their expenses and effort. Your comment also regarding the labeled rolls is accurate – only those with the label hold any premium.

This all became very clear when I stopped at my local dealer in my area this week, and he mentioned that he just purchased a complete Kennedy set – without proofs – from a longtime collector who needed some quick cash. This dealer has a heart of gold and was extremely kind to the collector and paid a slight premium, almost enough to cover the cost of the album the halves were housed in. He, the dealer, will likely be holding onto this complete set for a long time. Another albatross in his inventory.

Now, there are some gems in this Kennedy halves set, but almost all of them are in the early 40 percent silver, the Bicentennials, and the more recent proof issues, but none of the clad (no silver) halves hold any premium – except in the hearts of the few of us that have invested in labeled rolls throughout the years. That premium is simply the accomplishment of completing the set, not in any intrinsic cash value.

The exact population of this set of collectors is well documented by the Mint when it releases the number of rolls purchased by collectors each year. I count myself lucky to have the coins, and I hold no hope of covering even my original costs (including shipping) even though I have had them under subscription for all that time. I guess no one will ever know if there are any error coins in any of these rolls set aside, right? We cannot open the rolls to look without losing the ability to prove that the coins have not been in circulation. But there might be an undiscovered error ...

By the way, I must applaud the Mint for removing the shipping charges for all standing subscriptions this year (2018); best move for customer service in a very long time.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Michigan hobbyist Thomas Jillson.

To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 5225 Joerns Drive, Suite 2, Stevens Point WI, 54481. Send email to

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