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:
Where were you when the Kennedy half dollar was released?
That’s a question many senior collectors can readily
answer — even though they were but children then. Coin collecting was
a popular hobby in 1964. The possibility of finding treasure in change
attracted millions in the early 1960s, many of them kids flush with
cash from paper routes and after-school jobs.
Hackettstown, N.J., my local bank — like many across the country —
restricted distribution to two or three coins per person. I stood in
line to get my allotment and then enlisted friends to get more. By the
time the bank closed for the day I had amassed a roll. I kept the
coins through high school, college and young adulthood, but sold them
during the silver boom of 1979 to 1980, when silver spiked to $50 an
Texas collector Connie Murphy recalls getting her
first Kennedy half dollar. “My husband and I were living in a San
Francisco (Bay Area), Calif. apartment waiting to be approved for our
first home. And, as the only collector in my home, I bought my first
two silver Kennedy half dollars, knowing full well that every dollar
spent in those days would be eating into our down payment.
“But to my way of thinking, and considering the tremendous
inflation we face today, it was an excellent investment. We were only
23 when we moved into our first home.
“By the way, I
still have these halves.”
Ohio collector Mike Gunner
recalled: “I was 16 years old living in Toledo, Ohio, at the time. I
had all of my family go to the bank to get whatever they could get for
me. I had been collecting for seven years as of that time.”
He said, “I was a member of the Glass Center Coin Club in
Toledo and I can remember members trading their duplicates for other
Herman Blanton, Mount Vernon, Ohio,
collector and researcher, recalls getting his first Kennedy half at a
family gathering as a 12-year-old.
He said he had blue
Whitman folders for Lincoln cents and Jefferson and Indian Head 5-cent
pieces. “On an allowance of 25 cents a week, there wasn’t budget for
collecting silver coins,” he said.
“With the excitement
of the Kennedy half dollar everyone was wanting one, not only
collectors. I did get one by surprise when a number of families were
gathered. One of the men pulled two Kennedys from his pocket and
offered me one, after which my father paid him the 50 cents.”
Some banks initially restricted the coins to their best
customers, a fact that did not sit well with one teller in Cleveland,
Retired Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer
Dan Coughlin recounted the brief banking career of the late sports
announcer Bob Buck in his 2010 book, Crazy, With the Papers to
Prove It. Coughlin wrote, “Next came a job as a bank teller at
the Cleveland Trust (now part of KeyBank) … It lasted only three
Buck told Coughlin, “When we got our first
shipments of Kennedy half dollars the manager told us not to give them
to anybody unless they had $65,000 in their savings account. Late that
afternoon a little old lady came in. Every week she took a bus to the
bank to deposit one dollar. She asked me if we had any Kennedy half
dollars. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Here’s two of them.’ The branch manager was
standing behind me. He started bellowing, berating me in front of
everybody, so I picked up my money box and threw it all over the bank.
Then I got my coat and walked out.”
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: