Today, October 28, 2014 at 12:00 Noon ET, the United States Mint will begin accepting orders for the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection. This will represent the third and perhaps most eagerly anticipated of the three special numismatic products issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the series.
The series was authorized shortly following the assassination of President Kennedy and the first coins were issued in 1964. The obverse was designed by Gilroy Roberts and features a portrait of President Kennedy based on his inaugural medal. The reverse was designed by Frank Gasparro based on the Presidential Seal. Upon the coin’s initial release, a large proportion of the mintage was hoarded by the public as mementos, which limited the number of pieces which actually circulated. The tendency to save rather than spend the new half dollars contributed to the decline in circulation for the denomination. Since 2002, the half dollar has only been struck to fulfill demand from collectors and not minted for general circulation.
Since the beginning of the series, the coins have undergone some changes. The original portrait design by Gilroy Roberts has been modified over the years resulting in a very different appearance of the modern portrait compared to the original. The composition of the coins has also changed from the original 90% silver to copper-nickel clad, which has been used for circulation strikes since 1971.
The release of the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection brings the series back to its roots by restoring the original portrait design and issuing the coins in the original 90% silver composition. This portrait and composition are used across four half dollars struck at four different mints with different finishes.
The set includes one reverse proof coin from the West Point Mint, one proof coin from the Philadelphia Mint, one enhanced uncirculated coin from the San Francisco Mint, and one uncirculated coin from the Denver Mint. Each of these coins has not been offered previously and represents a distinct and separate issue from the 2014 Kennedy Half Dollars included in other numismatic products.
Of the four coins, two issues feature finishes never before seen within the Kennedy Half dollar series. The 2014-W Reverse Proof Kennedy Half Dollar features mirrored raised design elements and inscriptions against a frosted background. This is the opposite of the appearance of the traditional proof coin. The reverse proof finish has previously been used for the American Silver Eagle, American Gold Eagle, American Platinum Eagle, and American Gold Buffalo within special numismatic products.
The 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollar uses different degrees of laser frosting to create a unique appearance. On the obverse, the portrait, lettering, and border will receive a heavy laser frosting treatment. On the reverse, the lettering and border will receive a heavy laser frosting treatment. The eagle will receive a moderate laser frosting treatment, and the stars will receive a laser polish technique to accentuate them against the field. An enhanced uncirculated finish has only been used on one previous occasion for an American Silver Eagle issued within a special set.
The four coins of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection are packaged within an embossed faux leather folder which includes an image of President Kennedy from the original half dollar design along with flag imagery. Each set also includes a booklet on the development and design of the half dollar and a separate printed certificate of authenticity.
The sets are priced at $99.95 plus applicable shipping and handling. Sales are conducted through the US Mint’s website at http://catalog.usmint.gov and by phone at 1-800-USA-MINT.
Just days ahead of the on-sale date, the US Mint announced a product limit of 300,000 units. The Mint indicated that they would have more than 180,000 units immediately available for the start of sales. There is an ordering limit of 5 sets per household imposed.
Unexpected Product Limit
Establishing a product limit for the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection was an unexpected development and was announced only days before the product release.
Ever since the one-day sell out of the 2011 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle Set, the US Mint has shied away from establishing specific product limits for high demand products. (The exception is the case of commemorative coins such as the Baseball Hall of Fame Coins which have mintage limits established by Congress.) Instead of setting product limits, the US Mint has used limited four week ordering windows or left mintage levels open ended and based on demand.
When the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Silver Set was first announced, there was no specific product limit in place. In fact, I had asked the Mint if they ever planned on going back to establishing maximum mintages for special products and at the time they indicated their preference for no mintage limits due to the difficulty in gauging customer demand.
Since the US Mint typically aims for broad product distribution, they likely established the 300,000 product limit as their approximation of the total collector demand for the collection. Will this prove too little, too high, or just right?
For anyone contemplating the product limit, here are some figures to consider from other special Kennedy products and somewhat comparable special silver numismatic sets.
- In 1998, the US Mint offered a special Kennedy Collector’s Set, which included the 1998-S Robert F. Kennedy Silver Dollar and a special matte finish 1998-S Silver Kennedy Half Dollar. The set was priced at $59.95 and sold approximately 62,000 units during a four week ordering window.
- In 2006, the 20th Anniversary Silver Eagle Set was offered and included three Silver Eagle coins with proof, burnished, and reverse proof finishes. The sets were priced at $100 each and limited to 250,000 units with an initial ordering limit of ten sets per household. A sell out occurred after approximately two and a half months.
- The 2011 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle Set contained five Silver Eagles including two coins unique to the sets. Priced at $300 per set, there was a product limit of 100,000 and ordering limit of five per household. A sell out occurred in less than 5 hours.
- The 2012 San Francisco Silver Eagle Set contained proof and reverse proof Silver Eagles with the “S” mint mark. One of the coins remained unique to the set. The product was offered during a four week ordering window and priced at $149.95. Opening day sales reached 85,341 units. Final sales reached 251,302, which was later adjusted to a final audited mintage of 224,935 sets.
- The 2013 West Point Silver Eagle Set contained a reverse proof and enhanced uncirculated Silver Eagle with the “W” mint mark. Both coins were unique to the set and this represented the first use of the enhanced uncirculated finish. The sets were priced at $139.95 each and offered during a four week ordering window. Opening day orders reached 140,648 units. Final sales reached 281,310 units, although this was subsequently adjusted to 235,689.
- The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Silver Dollars featured an innovative design for a popular theme. The coins were priced at$47.95 for the uncirculated and $52.95 for the proof with a maximum mintage of 400,000 across both versions and ordering limit of 100 coins per version. Opening day sales reached 156,675 silver dollars. A sell out occurred in just under two weeks.
- The 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Uncirculated Coin Set was originally offered with no stated product limit and an ordering limit of five per household. The set was priced at $9.95. Opening day sales reached 68,974 and have now risen to 134,631. A product limit of 200,000 was just announced.
- The 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar Gold Proof Coin was originally priced at $1,240 per coin and had an ordering limit of five coins per household. Opening day sales reached 56,694 and have since risen to 64,303. The ordering limit has been removed, no product limit has been imposed.
New US Mint Website
Today’s high profile release will represent the first big test for the United States Mint’s new retail website and order management system which launched on October 1, 2014. In addition to improvements to the design and functionality, the new system features dynamic scaling to meet peak capacity.
For past major releases, the US Mint’s website has slowed to a crawl or even crashed. To temporarily deal with the issue, the US Mint had utilized an online waiting room which during times of high traffic queued customers to enter the website. Neither of these situations was ideal and I am sure customers are hoping for a better experience this time around.
Good luck to all readers today who plan to order the set!