Editor’s note: In his August monthly Coin World cover
feature, Gerald Tebben looks back at the story of the John F.
Kennedy half dollar as the numismatic community celebrates the
coin's 50th anniversary. This is one of a series of articles from
this feature that will appear online at CoinWorld.com.
Make sure you read other posts in the '50 years later' series:
Artist’s ‘signature,’ or Commie symbol?
Gilroy Roberts signed his work with a script monogram on the
truncation of Kennedy’s bust, an artistic embellishment that quickly
caught the attention of the nation’s more paranoid citizens.
Roberts’ GR was seized upon by those who saw Reds under their
beds as proof that the Commies had taken over. The intertwined G and
R, they swore, was really the hammer and sickle symbol of
The rumor took on a life of its own, spreading
widely among gullible conspiracy theorists.
Less than a
month after the coins were released, Time magazine reported: “In 1946
when the Roosevelt dime came out, the U.S. Mint was flooded with
queries about the initials J.S. at the base of Franklin Roosevelt’s
neck. Quite a few outraged folks thought the letters stood for Joseph
Stalin, and that it was all a Communist plot, until designer John
Sinnock patiently explained that the initials were his. Now there is a
flurry over the new Kennedy half dollar, and it’s the Reds again.
Complaints are coming into the Denver Mint that there is a hammer and
sickle on the coin.
Wearily, the mint’s Chief Sculptor
and Engraver Gilroy Roberts, 59, explains: ‘It’s my monogram, a G. and
an R. in script, combined. It might look like two sickles maybe. But
it looks nothing like a hammer and sickle at all. You’ve got to have a
slanted mind to see that there.’”
Slanted minds prevailed
for at least another year. In 1965, Mint Director Eva Adams felt
forced to issue a press release denying the existence of Communist
symbols on U.S. coins.
Check back with CoinWorld.com for the rest of Gerald Tebben's
profile of the Kennedy half dollar. Or, better yet, let us tell you
when a new post is up: