Insights

Is the U.S. Mint’s 2014 Kennedy half dollar 50th anniversary program ill-conceived?

Editorial-Opinion column from the June 30, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 06/15/14
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The U.S. Mint has released details about its 50th anniversary program for the Kennedy half dollar, but it is difficult to get too excited about the Mint’s unprecedented commemoration of a coin’s anniversary, especially a coin that several generations have rarely used in circulation.

The half dollar is one of those orphan denominations — authorized by U.S. law but essentially unneeded in circulation. The Federal Reserve hasn’t had to order from the Mint any 50-cent coins for circulation since 2001, so low is the demand for the half dollar. Many Americans are probably unaware that we still produce half dollars. That’s why the decision to commemorate the coin’s anniversary is so unusual.

A 2013 program marking the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, featuring the half dollar and the Mint’s presidential medal for Kennedy in a special set, would have seemed more logical — the assassination is one of the Baby Boomer generation’s pivotal historical events.

Instead, we are going to get a 50th anniversary half dollar program that, if we want to be cynical, seems aimed mainly at enticing collectors to buy an ever increasing number of coins with special finishes.

The 50th anniversary program adds seven finish and Mint mark variants of the half dollar to the six variants already available from the Mint. 

A four-coin 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection set will contain four silver coins unique to the set: a regular Proof coin with P Mint mark, a Reverse Proof coin with W Mint mark, an Enhanced Uncirculated coin with S Mint mark and an Uncirculated coin with D Mint mark. A two-coin 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Uncirculated Coin set will contain copper-nickel clad coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. 

All six coins will bear a restored version of the Gilroy Roberts portrait of Kennedy in its original 1964 higher relief (the restoration of the original Kennedy portrait is a bright spot in this program).

And then there’s the gold half dollar. The Mint is using what it cites as existing authority to produce a .9999 fine gold half dollar struck at the West Point Mint, with a 1964–2014 dual date and the higher relief 1964 portrait. The logic behind this coin is hard to understand. We’ve never had a gold half dollar before and the Mint’s legal authority to issue it is open to debate. When the Mint struck gold versions of the 2000 Sacagawea dollar and announced plans to sell them to the public, Congress stopped the Mint, stating that Mint officials lacked constitutional authority to issue the dollar coin in gold.

Ultimately, collectors will decide whether the Mint has made good decisions in commemorating the Kennedy half dollar.

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10 comments
Congratulations, US Mint! You're joining the ranks of other souvenir manufacturers like the Pobjoy Mint, the Franklin Mint and numerous other retail business ventures who already market little round metal (usually) disks that have little in common with actual coins other than the false "face value" stamped on it. I expect "colorized" versions in the near future... the rest of them are doing it.
Here's an idea... instead of using images from ACTUAL coins, why not start using Thomas Kincade's artwork? He cranked out hundreds of sentimental (but otherwise meaningless) images that some people seem to like to collect despite a non-existent intrinsic value and a dismal history of investment value. There's probably even potential for a whole series based on his "work"... like the "collector" plates sold by the Danbury Mint.
as a collector the program has way to many varieties way over priced not a good long term investment except for the dealers that will get most and charge a good price early then like all the mint sets be worthless a few years down the road a lot less than what we invested to get them like the quarters way way to many for any collector lets make less put a low mintage on them with the collectors first before dealers gobble them up after all if it were not for collectors nobody would be in business just my 2 cents
if it weren't for collectors there would be no sales of coins the collector should have some say in coin productions the mint is making way to many quarters now they want the half dollars with all kinds of sets with a big price that like the mint sets collectors loose money after a few years the sets can be purchased for less in the open market than the issue price from the mint so lets get the collector in mind when the mint makes all these decisions on what and how many and how affordable with what they might be worth in a few years you make a lot of sets they will be worth less than the issue price or the dealers will over charge for the sets that they will be getting and will take 50 years to be worth anything
The mint is out of control. Way too geared towards making profits for themselves, high-volume dealers, and third party grading companies. Way too many just-slightly-different coin varieties.
Kennedy is so desirable for collectors the mint has to cash in while they can they'd be crazy not to .This will be right up there with the baseball coins and the buffalo coins from 2001. It will be a homerun for the mint so let them cash in while the getting is good. If there is no mintage limit this coin will set records and if there is limits it will set records for selling out.
all boring to me. won't be in my collection. i'll only buy to make a quick flip.
Of all the laws codified in the United States Code, anyone can read Chapter 31 Section 5112 to understand what the U.S. Mint's responsibility is under the law. While saying, "We’ve never had a gold half dollar before" is a parochial opinion of the U.S. Mint's actions, "the Mint’s legal authority to issue it is open to debate" is not based on the reading of the law.

The U.S. Mint is allowed to mint the coin under the authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5112(q), the law authorizing the Gold Buffalo. According to the law, the U.S. Mint is only required to produce the coin with the James Earl Fraser Type 1 design the first year. Any changes in subsequent years must then be vetted by the CCAC and CFA.

This was the same section of the Statue that the U.S. Mint used to justify the production of the 2009 Saint Gaudens high relief gold coin.

The difference between the decision to strike these gold coins and the 2000 Sacagawea Dollar coin is that the section of the law that allows the Gold Buffalo (31 U.S.C. § 5112(q)) did not exist at the time since the law was passed in 2006.

The last time the U.S. Mint appeared to step outside of their business as usual was the 2009 Saint Gaudens high relief gold coin and that program was a success. Given the attitudes about Kennedy that still exist today, it would not be a stretch to predict success of this coin program.
I have no problem with the Mint commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy half dollar with a coin made of pure gold. I will even go as far as saying that this coin will someday find its way into the top 100 finest coins ever produced by the United States Mint.