US Coins

Is this 1964 Kennedy half a Special Mint set coin?

Readers Ask column from Aug. 15, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

One of your writers, Scott Schechter, wrote an article in 2014 about the rare 1964 Kennedy with Special Mint set finish. I have a coin that closely resembles everything described in the article, but I was hoping Mr. Schechter could look at the attached photos and tell me whether or not this is close enough to have graded, or if it is just a regular run-of-the-mill Proof. The coin has a great amount of detail, but it is missing the usual “frosted” look of a Proof coin. 

As I am not really a coin collector, any assistance you or your staff can provide would be great.

Tray Towles  /  via email

As per your request, I forwarded your email inquiry about 1964 Kennedy half dollars with the Special Mint set finish and attached images to Scott Schechter, who pens the Coin World column “Making Moderns” that is published in the second issue of every month. 

Scott is also a grader at Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and co-author with Jeff Garrett of 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins.

Scott looked at the images you sent and provided the following assessment:

“The coin shown is a Brilliant Proof, without cameo contrast. Not until the 1970’s did most Proof coins exhibit cameo contrast. The 1964 SMS coins are very sharp, similar to a Proof. Unlike 1965–1967 SMS coins, they do not have mirrored surfaces. Rather, fine distinctive die polish lines are visible through their entire rich, satin surface.”

He added, “Unfortunately, given their scarcity, few collectors have had the opportunity to have one in hand, but good pictures can be found online in auction archives and on the websites of the major grading services. “

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Regarding the 1964 SMS half dollars, the NGC website link at says, “... The obverse is the Normal Hair type, while the reverse is the Type One reverse, with a straight G in the FG designer’s initials and breaks in rays 11-13 (counting from the left) where they meet stars.”

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