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 the last 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:
What would it buy?
The Kennedy half dollar was released at a time when 50
cents had real purchasing power.
In 1964 the minimum
wage was $1, an amount worth about $7.55 in today’s money.
Here are some prices from late March 1964.
most cities, daily newspapers were 7 cents; Sunday ones, a
Newfangled tubeless car tires sold for as little
as $8.21. Hi-Grade motor oil was 19 cents a quart.
dollar would buy two boy’s T-shirts, a six-blade pack of chin-slicing
Schick double-edged razor blades or a can of I’sis hair spray.
At the grocery store, a Kennedy half dollar would buy four cans
of Libby’s pork and beans, five dozen clothespins, a half-pound T-bone
steak or 1 pound of bacon, halibut or frozen fish sticks.
The first Ford Mustang, THE car of the decade, rolled off the assembly
line March 9, just a couple weeks before the Kennedy coin was
released. It stickered for $2,368, about a tenth of the current
Coin prices from a half century ago, for the most
part, seem like great bargains today. In a few cases, though, buyers
in 1964 wasted their money on coins that are now worth just a fraction
of their 1964 prices.
Here are some prices from the March
1964 issue of the long-gone Numismatic Scrapbook magazine.
Empire Coin — Q. David Bowers’ and Jim Ruddy’s company — was
offering a “select fine” 1792 half disme for $650. Today the coin is
worth upwards of $75,000.
Eureka Coin Shop of San
Francisco was advertising Choice Uncirculated Saint-Gaudens gold $20
pieces for $51 apiece (a dollar less than Coronet double eagles).
Today, Uncirculated double eagles fluctuate with the price of gold —
Vikse of New York City priced an
Uncirculated 1890-CC Morgan dollar at $20. Today an MS-63 1890-CC
dollar retails for $800.
H&H of Phoenix advertised a
Brilliant Uncirculated 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent for $325. The coin
currently sells for about $2,000.
In the early 1960s,
collectors and speculators put coins away by the roll and bag,
figuring they’d see big profits later.
M. Hirschhorn of
Long Island City, N.Y., offered 1960 Small Date cents for $350 a roll.
London’s of Brooklyn, N.Y., was selling 5,000-coin bags of 1959 cents
Roll and bag collecting fell by the wayside
decades ago. Both investments were dogs. Today a roll of 1960 Small
Date cents sells for about $110. The bag of 1959 cents retails for
about $125, and buyers are hard to find.
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