Specimen MS69 1964 Half Dollar--The Ultimate Business Strike1964 50C MS69 Specimen NGC. Any skepticism one might have about this coin's status is immediately dispelled once its surfaces are examined under magnification--and we strongly encourage close examination. It may be useful to first state what this coin is not. It is not a 1964 proof, it is not a 1964 Special Mint Set piece, and its texture suggests a different method of production from a regular business strike 1964 half. So, what do we know from examination of the coin's surfaces? First, it is definitely a business strike. Second, it has uncommonly sharp definition; in fact, the striking details rival that of a proof, which would indicate the coin was struck multiple times. The fields also show innumerable die polishing marks on each side. This usually produces a prooflike or at least semi-prooflike coin. On this piece, though, the fields are bright but there is no reflectivity present. The luster is also quite different from all other 1964 halves we have seen. The finish varies from the soft mint frost often seen on most Philadelphia coinage to a flashy, cartwheel luster seen on many 1964 halves. On this coin, the surface texture has a definite satiny finish. When one adds up all these characteristics, it seems that the intent on the Mint's part was to produce the ultimate business strike 1964 half dollar. But why?
The only clue we have about the production of any special business strike 1964 halves comes from a short quote in the Breen Encyclopedia, page 418: "On Feb. 11, simultaneous ceremonies were held at both mints in the presence of a variety of Treasury officials, celebrating the new design; but coins were not available to the general public until March 5..." This February 11 special striking would seem to provide the occasion as well as the means of striking such a coin as is represented here. It would also at least suggest the possibility of the existence of a similar coin(s) from the Denver mint.
Magnification fails to reveal any trace of coin-to-coin contact on either side. The only interruption in the surfaces are a couple of microscopic abrasions along the highpoint of the truncation of the neck, and a few others on the raised, vertical shield lines on the reverse. These tiny marks could easily be produced by the piece coming in contact with a table or other hard surface--not an unlikely scenario for a 39-year old coin that was probably owned for most of that time by a non-collector. Kennedy's face is smooth and unblemished, as are the fields. The strike is also uncommonly sharp, the only coin to compare it to being a proof (again, reinforcing the multiple strike theory). As for pedigree identifiers, there are very few and none can be seen without a magnifier. On the lower reverse, a very thin, vertical toning streak extends from the lower left (facing) wing of the eagle down to the rim running alongside the upright of the L in HALF. A tiny grease stain can also be seen just below the eagle's left (facing) talon, and another, larger grease stain is located on Kennedy's nose (this one may actually be viewable without magnification). Most of the original mint brilliance is still present, but there is just the lightest bit of golden toning present around the margins.
There are a great many collectors of this series. Some collect because they remember the thousand days of Camelot, some because of the beauty of the design, others want only the finest Registry set. Whatever one's motivation for collecting Kennedy halves, it will be difficult to resist the allure of this specially struck coin. (NGC ID# 24U2, PCGS# 6706)
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.
This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.
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