Although Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee members did not agree
Feb. 11 on markings for a proposed Kennedy half dollar in .9999 fine
gold, they strongly praised the U.S. Mint for initiating the gold coin proposal.
The gold coin would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
assassinated president’s appearance on the half dollar.
U.S. Mint officials say they are still considering whether the
proposed gold Kennedy half dollar would be a 1-ounce gold coin, or
whether the date would be presented as 2014 or as 1964-2014, or if a
Proof version would carry the W Mint mark from the West Point Mint on
the obverse or the reverse.
Assistant U.S. Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro’s original reverse for
the Kennedy half dollar was reviewed by CCAC members, but the only
discussion was where to place the W Mint mark. Some wanted it to be on
the reverse. The mock-up obverse designs presented to the committee
showed the Mint mark on the obverse. On current Kennedy half dollars,
the Mint mark is on the obverse.
U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said Feb. 12 that the exact
reverse design has not yet been decided.
CCAC members were divided on other markings as well.
Gary Marks, the CCAC chair and a half dollar specialist, did not
like the idea of multiple years on the coin, but Pennsylvania artist
Jeanne Stevens-Sollman did.
“Whatever you make, you’re going to sell a lot these both at the
high end and the low end,” said Michael Olson, an Iowa collector.
Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey lawyer and medals specialist, urged
the Mint to “err on the side of making it less expensive.”
A 1-ounce gold coin could easily cost between $1,200 and $1,300 a
coin based on the recent price of gold, making it expensive for many
collectors, some CCAC members said.
Michael Moran, another collector on the panel, said, “It’s going
to sell well however you do it.”
Erik Jansen, a Washington state collector, suggested that one of
Kennedy’s famous quotations — “Ask not what your country can do for
you. Ask what you can do for your country” — be considered for the edge.
Mint officials plan to use the Kennedy half dollar’s original
obverse design, which was created by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy
Roberts for a medal and adapted for coin use.
U.S. Mint officials stated during the CCAC meeting that Roberts’
original plaster model for the coin’s obverse has not been located.
U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White, responding by email Feb. 12 to
Coin World’s questions, said: “We located the galvano from 1964 and
scanned that to capture the detail. We then located the 1964 master
tooling and scanned that to determine heights of relief, basin
curvature, and aspect ratio of the effigy. The galvano scan was then
digitally modified to reduce height of relief and aspect ratio, while
being true to the 1964 sculpt (galvano). The final digital sculpt was
placed on the basin, lettering added, and tooling generated for testing.
“The obverse was kept to the original sculpt in every way
possible. Slight tweaking may be needed for coin-ability issues based
on the alloy being struck (gold, silver, clad).” The U.S. Mint is also
contemplating multicoin Kennedy half dollar sets with coins struck in
.900 fine silver and copper-nickel clad and in different finishes.
According to White, a galvano was used in earlier stages of the
U.S. Mint’s manufacturing process.
“In essence, a clay/wax sculpt was created for the coin or medal
in a much larger size (8 inches or more in diameter),” White said.
“This sculpt was in the orientation of the coin/medal. A plaster mold
or negative was then created from this sculpt and summarily used in an
electroforming process. The process could take several days to
complete before a copper galvano would be ready.
“The galvano side that was against the plaster mold was smooth and
refined. The back side of the galvano was very rough. The galvano was
later used on the Janvier transfer engraving machines of the day to
make the final dies.
“So in essence, a galvano was a large electroformed model of the
coin/medal and was used on the transfer engraving machines of the day
(Janvier) to make dies.”
The Janvier machine traced the design elements of the galvano with
a stylus, reducing them in size through a series of gears, and cut an
exact replica into the blank face of a piece of die steel to create a
master hub. This hub was used to make the master die, which was used
to make multiple working hubs. Each working hub made multiple working dies.
The U.S. Mint no longer uses the Janvier reduction-engraving lathe
in its die production processes.
The current plans call for a Kennedy gold coin to be marketed by
the Mint as a numismatic product, not as a bullion coin. That would
make for weekly price changes instead of the daily price changes made
for bullion coins. ■