US Coins

Why would a modern coin be missing designer initials?

Readers Ask column from the Nov. 21, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

Thanks for the information on the 1972-D Kennedy, No FG half dollar. I collected No FG halves as well as No F halves several years ago. Of course, there are lots of the 1984 Kennedy, No FG half dollars. Do you have any information concerning other dates? I have to go through my boxes, but I also have a 1990-D Kennedy, No FG half dollar. I believe there are other dates as well, but while I could find the coins, there was only information about the 1984 when I was looking for them.

Larry Baker  /  Via Email

Collectors of Kennedy half dollars, recognize the “No FG” reference to the absence on the coin’s reverse of the designer’s initials of then U.S. Mint Assistant Engraver Frank Gasparro. The initials are normally located in the field between the eagle’s tail feathers and left leg.

I checked a number of auction companies’ auction results and came across sales of No FG Kennedy half dollars for the following dates: a 1966 coin from a Special Mint set, and 1972-D and 1982-P coins, but no 1984 or 1990-D half dollars.

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Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of U.S. Coins lists the aforementioned 1966 and 1972-D No FG coins, but not the other dates. Neither the Professional Coin Grading Service Population Report nor the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Census report list Kennedy, No FG half dollars.

I consulted with James Wiles, variety attributer for The Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America, who operates the website, offering a variety master listings for CONECA. Wiles indicates that many dates are missing the initials, but he is unaware of anyone who has assembled a list or collection of them.

More than one cause explains the missing designers’ initials: overpolishing the dies to extend their production life, or grease or other debris filling the recesses of a die.

“Over abrasion will usually have die scratches in the area,” Wiles said. “Debris filled dies will generally leave a depression or pitting from the debris. Either way, the error type is considered common.”

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