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    Description

    1964 SMS Kennedy Half, MS67
    First Public Offering of an Example Since 2010
    One of About a Dozen Known

    1964 50C SMS MS67 PCGS. A great deal of misinformation surrounds these interesting and enigmatic issues, which represent by far the rarest Kennedy halves of any kind. Our extensive research into these coins indicates that only about a dozen examples of the so-called "1964 SMS" Kennedy halves exist today, as the roster below indicates. Many blue moons pass before the occasional auction offering: Most examples that have traded over the last few years have done so privately and are now held in very strong hands in long-term collections, unlikely to appear again for decades.

    Although the usually given date is 1993, we have, in fact, discovered auction appearances at Stack's of these coins dating to 1991. Lot 591 in Stack's auction of June 19-20, 1991, was described in this way:

    AN UNUSUAL 1964 'P' SET
    1964'P' Cent through Half Dollar. Choice Brilliant Uncirculated. Nearly all show evidence of die refinishing at the mint. The 1c is red gold with planchet striations on the obverse, the reverse fully struck up. The 5c has pastel iridescence and a mirror rim like a 1941 coin. The 10c has light russet toning on a satiny surface with faint striations. The 25c has normal lustre under gold toning. The 50c has a fully satiny obverse and a somewhat reflective surface. The strike on all the coins is far sharper than is seen even on the Special Mint Sets. We suspect that these were struck as an experiment to determine the sort of finish the Mint would use from 1965 to 1967. 5 pieces.



    These "sets" were, in reality, merely assemblages of five coins, cent through half dollar, that were each in individual snap-tight clear plastic holders. None of the 1964 SMS "sets" were ever in any kind of official Mint packaging. We have counted only nine "complete" 1964 SMS five-piece sets that appeared at Stack's between 1991 and 1995. Numismatist and coin dealer Jesse Lipka recognized the "1964 SMS" coins as something special, and bought 80%-90% of all the sets that would appear at Stack's in the following few years.

    Mint Director Eva Adams was responsible for the world-record-speedy introduction of the Kennedy half dollar in 1964 after President Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, and she passed away on August 23, 1991 -- two months after the 1964 SMS coins noted above appeared at Stack's. It is theorized that the coins came to Stack's from the estate of Miss Adams or of another Mint employee, but that remains unsubstantiated. Sources that we consider reliable have confirmed, however, that the 1964 SMS coins offered via Stack's were from New York coin dealer Lester Merkin or his estate. Merkin died on July 26, 1992.

    The silver 1964 SMS coins were all struck on 90% silver planchets. Their metallic composition, their radically different surface finish, and their far-sharper strikes all call into question, in our view, if these coins qualify as "experiments" for the actual 1965-67 Special Mint Sets, as Stack's suggested. Their extensive evidence of die preparation and the existence of multiply struck examples of each denomination suggest that these coins were intended from the beginning as something more than merely tests for the later 1965-67 SMS sets. Even in the first 1991 appearance known to us, the Stack's cataloger noted both the unusual "die refinishing" of the coins and the powerful strike, which we consider bolder than either proof coins or the 1965-67 SMS coinage. Lipka also noted that some of the Kennedy half dollars contained in the 1964 "sets" were regular circulation strikes, making the half dollar denomination the rarest of the five. All five denominations are easily distinguished by the extensive die polishing lines that prevail throughout both sides, as well as by their phenomenally bold strikes.

    In the case of the 1964 SMS Kennedy halves (save for #11 in the roster below, possibly from a different die state), the die polishing is multidirectional (it is more uniform on the 1964 SMS Lincoln cents, for example), and all 1964 SMS half dollars show various die markers that identify a single die pair. Die Markers: Reverse. An especially heavy die polishing line runs from the bottom right tip of the small middle serif in (O)F to A(MERICA). Another heavy die polishing line runs from the lower-right tip of the small lower serif of the F in HALF to the rim near the D in DOLLAR. Obverse. A tiny teardrop-shaped (or apostrophe-shaped) lump of metal hangs down from the underside of the crosslet on the 4, just right of the intersection with the upright of that digit.

    The Present Coin
    The surfaces are satin-textured, as seen to a greater or lesser degree on every 1964 SMS Kennedy. Attractive salmon-orange rim toning appears on the upper obverse and lower reverse. Some carbon-gray flecks are scattered around the lower and left obverse. The strike is remarkably full on all details, and a sharp wire rim around both sides is also typical. The "dangling 4" die marker on the obverse is prominent, as are the especially heavy die-finishing lines from (O)F to A(MERICA) and (HAL)F to D(OLLAR).

    Roster of Confirmed 1964 SMS Kennedy Halves
    Although there are several more pieces in the certified populations at NGC and PCGS, we believe most of the NGC coins (save for possibly #2 below) have now been crossed to PCGS holders, as shown by #3 below. PCGS registers an even dozen grading events for these coins -- one each in SP64 and SP69, six in SP67, and four in SP68 -- which we believe to be the maximum number of different coins of the denomination that exist.
    The majority of trades of 1964 SMS coins (of all denominations) over the past few years have been via private transactions; the coins, especially the half dollars, seldom appear at auction. In earlier years, PCGS labeled these coins with the MS prefix and "SMS" designation, later going to the SP prefix for "Special Strike."
    1. MS69 PCGS. Part of a PCGS-certified complete five-piece set of 1964 SMS coins, cent through half dollar -- each the finest or tied for finest certified -- brokered in April 2013 via private sale from David Schweitz to an anonymous Western collector for $151,200. The set in March 2013 appeared in a Stack's Bowers sale where it failed to meet the reserve. The consecutively numbered 1964 SMS set (numbers 10132706-10132710) included a Lincoln cent MS68 Red PCGS, one of two so graded; Jefferson nickel MS68 Full Steps PCGS, one of six submissions; Roosevelt dime MS68 PCGS, one of three; Washington quarter MS68 PCGS, the only one so graded; and a Kennedy half MS69 PCGS, the sole finest at PCGS. Now tightly held in a long-term collection. PCGS certification #10132710.
    2. SP69 NGC. Definitely a 1964 SMS half, although the cataloger termed it at the time the "ultimate specimen strike." Baltimore Signature (Heritage, 7/2003), lot 8104. The "dangling 4" die marker is clearly visible, as are myriad die polishing lines. A light streak of die grease runs through the lower-left reverse. Certification #1727946-029.
    3. MS68 PCGS. Ex: Central States Signature (5/2004), lot 7926. Formerly encapsulated in a "Specimen MS69 NGC" holder, this piece was later crossed to an MS68 PCGS early blue-label holder -- perhaps quite a few years ago, based on the style of the holder. It briefly appeared in Heritage's Summer FUN Signature (7/2016, lot 3908) before being withdrawn. Former NGC certification #1622190-002 (now delisted); PCGS certification #02407076.
    4. MS68 PCGS. Mostly brilliant, with dots of grayish toning on the obverse. A hint of salmon-pink appears in the field behind the head and below TY, below OD and between 1 9 in date, and near the rim between IB. Ex: Central States Signature (Heritage, 4-5/2009), lot 2929. Tightly held in a long-term collection. Certification #10000869.
    5. SP67 PCGS. Part of Mitch Spivack's Wondercoins' Top 100 Modern Coins Registry Set. Certification #25002596.
    6. MS67 PCGS. The present coin. The PCGS CoinFacts plate coin. Ex: ANA Signature (Heritage, 7-8/2008), lot 2704; Dave Shelton (8/2008); via private trade to the present consignor (3/2010). Certification #11892056.
    7. MS67 PCGS. Obverse satiny silver-white with touch of gold patina at extreme rim, especially above RTY. Myriad haphazard die polishing lines, consistent with #6 above. FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2010), lot 2793, brought $16,100. Currently in a "user's private set registry inventory," according to the PCGS database. Certification #10081826.
    8. MS67 PCGS. Part of a complete consecutively numbered certified PCGS set (cent through half), numbers 3334542-3334546, all early blue-label holders (fall 1998 style), privately traded in 2011 and 2012 via various coin dealer intermediaries. A white coin showing a touch of gray on the lower cheek back of the chin. Gold accents heaviest at LIB. Tightly held in a long-term collection. Certification #3334536.
    9. MS67 PCGS. Part of a complete consecutively numbered certified PCGS set (cent through half), numbers 3494650-3494654, privately traded in January 2011 via two coin dealer intermediaries. Certification #3494654.
    10. "MS67 Specimen NGC." Part of a five-piece NGC Specimen set (Heritage, 5/2003), no lot number (withdrawn?). Certification #115904-001. No further information available.
    11. SP64 PCGS. Part of a complete five-piece consecutively numbered set (26488406-26488410) traded through various dealer intermediaries around 2012-2013. The appearance of this coin is somewhat anomalous, as it lacks clear evidence of the "dangling 4" diagnostic. Certification #28161805 (formerly 26488410).

    Other Appearances
    A. MS67 PCGS. Ex: Heritage (5/2003), lot 5835, part of an unsold five-piece PCGS-certified 1964 SMS set; bought in. The half dollar was at that time certification #06598066, but we believe that after passing through unknown intermediaries, it was cracked out and is now coin #5 above.
    B. MS67 PCGS. Bowers and Merena (11/2006), lot 3483. Mark in r. obv. field between rear of hair and Y. Likely a duplicate of one of the above.
    C. MS68 PCGS. Teletrade auction 1389, lot 1469 (12/27/2000). Likely a duplicate of one of the above.
    From The Bristol Collection.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 27WH, PCGS# 6844)

    Weight: 12.50 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Bristol Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 24
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 20,433

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
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