When properly-made coinage dies first are put into use, they can
impress coins with crisp and full detail. During the minting process,
dies crack, clash into each other and fatigue as a result of heat and
stress. Sometimes, dies are taken out of service and relapped, or
polished anew, to extend their useful life.
As a consequence of all these factors, “late state” dies produce
coins that have only shallow or even mushy, indistinct detail. Once in
a while, they produce a collectible variety. That’s exactly the case
with the popular and controversial Kennedy, No FG half dollars.
Like all current U.S. coins, the Kennedy half dollar includes the
initials of its designer. FG appears on the coin’s reverse, in the
small field area between the eagle’s tail and left leg. They are the
initials of Frank Gasparro, who designed this coin while serving as
assistant engraver at the U.S. Mint. He later became chief engraver in 1965.
The initials are small and in low relief. When the reverse die is
polished excessively, this subtle detail is inadvertently erased.
This has happened at least three times, yielding three collectible
Kennedy, No FG half dollars. The first time was in 1966 during
production of the Special Mint set (SMS) Kennedy half dollar.
The SMS 1966 Kennedy, No FG half dollar features an extremely
overpolished reverse. Not only are the initials absent, but much of
the central detail of the eagle’s left wing is also missing.
In 2008, a certified Mint State 66 example cost as little as $50.
Today, a similarly graded coin trades for more than $500 due to
registry set collecting and widening general interest. Over-polishing
again occurred in 1972, this time at the Denver Mint. The 1972-D
Kennedy, No FG half dollar exhibits coarse polish lines throughout the
field area, obliterating detail in the area of the initials. This
variety is scarce and only a handful have been graded by the major services.
Last, in 1982, at the Philadelphia Mint, the same events occurred.
While overpolished, the 1982-P Kennedy, No FG half dollar is better
made than its 1972 counterpart and also immensely more common. It is
still a very popular adjunct for collectors building a Kennedy half
dollar set. But these varieties are all controversial. Dies are meant
to wear during use, and some loss of detail is tolerated by the Mint.
Thus, many Kennedy half dollars show weak or partial FG initials.
Only these three varieties have caught on and are sought-after
today. But other No FG dates have been reported, including 1983-P and
1988-P coins. To qualify as a true and collectible No FG Kennedy half
dollar, a coin must be struck from dies with no trace of the
designer’s initials whatsoever.
Scott schechter is a
grader at NGC and co-author
100 Greatest U.S. Modern
Coins. He can be reached by
email directed to him at