Tag Archives: Half Dollar

1952 Booker T Washington Carver Half Dollar US

This coin is in uncirculated shape, and I’d tentatively grade it between MS61 and MS63. I bought it at a “We Buy Gold” bullion dealer in San Diego along with a handful of other commemorative half dollars.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

The obverse shows two faces in profile, looking to the right. More than half of the area is filled with text, arranged in two rings around the inside of the rim. From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads clockwise “* United States of America*” From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads counterclockwise “In God We Trust * E Pluribus Unum”. The inner ring reads clockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “George W Carver Liberty Booker T. Washington” and counterclockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “Half Dollar”. The date (1952) is horizontal, between the W and the C in Carver.

On the reverse, there’s a map of the lower 48 states with “U. S. A.” across the state dividing lines. The legend clockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL” and counterclockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 “**AMERICANISM**”.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

Identification code: KM-200

Date: 1952

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 2,006,000

Country of origin: US

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% copper

Size: 30.6mm

Weight: 12.5g (0.3617 oz ASW)

Other details: 3 coin sets of the commemorative Washington-Carver coins with mintages of roughly 8k to 12k each were produced every year from 1951 through 1954, with large quantities struck of the 1951(P), 1952(P), 1953-S and 1954-S coins for sale individually. When the program expired in 1954, not a lot of people were upset. Long series runs of commemoratives had exhausted collectors, and many felt that such multiple-year runs were a money grab by the mint. In this case, it ended up being unsuccessful and losing money – and this was compounded by financial improprieties in the society working on building memorials.

As a result, there was a long gap until commemoratives were again struck by the mint (resuming again with the 1982 George Washington Half Dollar). The Booker T. Washington and Washington-Carver Halves were among the least desired, with many thousands returned to the Mint for melting. Thousands more were sold to speculators at just slightly above face value. The banks that had bought them from the mint for distribution liquidated most of their holdings by 1965.

Estimated Value: $20 in MS61 with silver at ~$19/oz.

1829 Bust Half Dollar O-114

This coin has been seen a lot of history. I only hope that I look as good going into my second century! I’d grade it a G4 or a VG8 on a generous day. There’s a large X scratched into the reverse that significantly harms its eye appeal.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Obverse 04

1829 Bust Half Dollar Obverse 04

The obverse shows lady Liberty facing to the left, with a lot of cleavage showing. She wears a rather crushed looking liberty cap, and has curls of hair down to her shoulders.  She is surrounded by 13 six-sided stars; 7 run from her bosom at 8:00 to her temple at 11:00 and 6 run from the back of her head at 2:00 to her back at 4:00. The date is at 6:00.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse 03

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse 03

On the reverse, an emblematic eagle sits on a nest of arrows. The eagle has a shielded chest, a rather serpentine neck (facing to the left) and spread wings. The legend “United States of America” runs from 8:00 to 4:00. A banner scroll reads “E Pluribus Unum” between the legend and eagle’s head from 10:00 to 2:00. The denomination “50 C” is at 6:00.

Date: 1829

Mint Mark: n/a (so Philadelphia)

Mintage: 3,712,156

Country of origin: United States

Composition: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

Size: 32.5mm

Weight: 13.48 grams

Other details: The dies on these are all attributed by Overton. I don’t know all the differences between varieties, but they mostly have to do with the spacing of letters on the reverse. On some, the “I” in Liberty is further to the left or right of the “T” in United States.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse with Overton attribution to O-114

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse with Overton attribution to O-114

I was told that this is an O-114 variety. Overton varieties start with 001 and were numbered based on their order of discovery. Typically, this means that the higher Overton numbers are scarcer. In this case, the O114 variety is rated as a R3 (which I believe is based on the Sheldon rarity scale below):

R1 is common (1000+ pieces known)
R2 is Slightly uncommon (501-1000 pieces known)
R3 is Scarce (201-500 pieces known)
R4 is Very Scarce (81-200 pieces known)
R5 is Rare (31-80 pieces known)
R6 is Very Rare (13-30 pieces known)
R7 is Extremely Rare (4-12 pieces known)
R8 is Unique or nearly so (1-3 pieces known)

Estimated Value: $60 to $90 with silver at ~$21/oz

90% Silver JFK Half Dollar Coin – 1964

This coin is in excellent shape, as are many of the first year JFK half dollars. Most saw little or no circulation and were kept as mementos or hoarded when the US moved away from silver coinage (by removing silver from dimes and quarters while reducing the fineness of half dollars from 0.900 to 0.400 in 1965). I would grade it in EF40 condition.

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

The obverse shows President John F. Kennedy in profile, facing to the left. The legend “Liberty” runs around the rim from 9:00 to 3:00. The date is written along the rim counter-clockwise from 7:00 to 4:00. And the motto “In God We Trust” is written horizontally from 7:30 to 3:30.

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

The reverse is dominated by the Presidential Seal – which had recently been redesigned for Pres. Kennedy. It shows an eagle holding an olive branch (peace) in its right claw and arrows (strength) in its left. During time of war, the symbols would be reversed (which does beg the question about why the pattern wasn’t changed in 2001). The thirteen stripes on the eagle’s chest represent the 13 original colonies. The horizontal bar across the top represents Congress forming one government from many. A banner above the eagle and between the eagle’s spread wings reads “E Pluribus Unum”. Fifty stars representing the fifty states encircle the eagle. The legend from 9:00 to 3:00 reads “United States of America” and the denomination, written from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “Half Dollar”.

Date: 1964

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 277,254,766 (another 156,205,446 were minted with a Denver mint mark, so that Philadelphia accounted for 63.963% of the halfs produced in 1964). Here are mintage numbers for the entire series of JFK halfs.

Country of origin: The United States

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

Size: 30.6 mm / 2.15 mm thickness

Weight: 12.5 grams (0.36169 Troy oz ASW)

Varieties: The Accented Hair variety has sharply incised hair above Kennedy’s ear and is found only as a Proof. The Doubled Die obverse is available both as a circulation strike and as a Proof. The Doubled Die reverse is known only in Proof.

Other details: During his Thousand days in office, John F. Kennedy inspired millions of Americans – he was widely respected even by his political enemies. The Kennedy half dollar was first minted in 1964 and (as of 2012, when I am writing this), it is still being struck as the ‘circulating’ fifty cent piece of the United States. It was intended as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy with a single year of mintage planned, but just like the Washington quarter (first struck for the bicentennial of his birth in 1932), it was so popular that the design replaced the older pattern.

The JFK half dollar was authorized by Congress just over a month after Jack Kennedy’s death. Use of existing designs by Mint sculptors Frank Gasparro and Gilroy Roberts allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and the first coins were struck in January of 1964.

Mint Director Eva Adams was a great admirer of Kennedy. She spearheaded the design of a commemorative coin for the fallen president. Gilroy Roberts wrote that Mint Director Adams had called him within hours of the assassination. He was at the Mint at the time, working, and they talked about the suitability of the Quarter Dollar, Half Dollar, and Silver Dollar. The Silver Dollar had not been produced in over 30 years, and while there were discussions going on about reviving the largest silver denomination (there were Peace dollars minted in 1964, but all were supposedly melted down without being released). The silver dollar was not seen as a viable option. First Lady Jackie Kennedy opposed replacing the Washington design of the quarter, and thus the half dollar denomination was chosen.

The previous design for the half dollar featuring Benjamin Franklin had been minted since 1948. By law, US circulating coinage designs must be used for a minimum of 25 years before new designs can replace them, but at the request of President Johnson, an exception was made in this case with congressional approval.

Shortly after the coin’s release, the Denver Mint began receiving complaints that the new coin was marked with a  hammer & sickle at the bottom of Kennedy’s neckline. In response, Roberts made public statements that the perceived Communist symbol was actually his monogram, a stylized “GR

The first year of issue was the only one where coin silver was used (planchets with a fineness of 0.900 or 90% silver). From 1965 to 1970, special planchets were used with a 40% fineness (the outer layers had a higher silver content, giving them a lighter/brighter finish than they would otherwise have). These 40% silver coins are often referred to as Silver Clad Half Dollars or SilverClad JFK Halfs.

In 1971, silver was eliminated entirely from the Kennedy 50 cent piece, although a few 1970 planchets are known to have slipped through in later years (primarily 1971).

A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. Even though ample supplies of half dollars are now available, their circulation is extremely limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been struck to satisfy the demand from collectors, and are available through the Mint.

Estimated Value: $10.14 with silver at ~$38/oz

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

1946 Booker T Washington Half Dollar Commemorative Coin

This commemorative half dollar features Booker T. Washington, a man who worked tirelessly to promote education and opportunities for freed slaves at the tail end of Reconstruction. These were minted from 1946 to 1951 at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints (for a total of 18 varieties).

On the obverse, Booker T Washington is shown in 3/4 profile, facing to the right. He has a determined look on his face, and close cropped hair that contributes to a military bearing. He is shown wearing a simple and elegant suit (possibly a frock coat or other Victorian garment). From 8:00 to 2:00, the coin bears the legend “United States of America”. From 6:00 to 3:00, it reads “Booker T. Washington”. The date and denomination are at 6:00 – “1946 Half Dollar” and the motto “E Pluribus Unum” is at 3:00.

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Obverse

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Obverse

The reverse shows the “Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial” – a National Monument that is now maintained by the US Park Service. The monument preserves part of the tobacco farm where Washington was born, along with slave cabins and vegetable plots. Back to the coin – it has the central legend “From Slave Cabin to Hall of Fame”, set in the center between two buildings. The upper building appears to be the South Entrance to the US Hall of Fame at the Bronx Community College. The lower building is a simple slave cabin. The motto “In god we trust” is on the left of the slave cabin, and the location “Franklin County, VA.” is on the right of the cabin.  The word “Liberty” is at 6:00.

For coins struck at the Denver or San Francisco Mints, the mintmark appears below the cabin and above “Liberty”.

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Reverse

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Reverse

Identification code: B. T. Washington 50c

Date: 1946

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 700,546 (55.96% of the 1,250,825 minted in 1946 & of the 44.03% of the 1,591,029 total minted of all Booker T. Washington commemoratives).

Country of origin: United States

Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper (0.36169 oz ASW)

Size: 30.6 mm

Weight: 12.5 grams

Other details: When the coin was issued, putting an African American on a US coin was very controversial (segregation was still widely practiced throughout the south). Booker Taliaferro Washington was the first African American honored on a US coin; he was also the first to be honored with his own US postage stamp, the first to have a US ship named after him, the first invited to the White House as a guest, and the first to receive a National Monument in his honor. He was also honored on another commemorative half dollar from 1951 to 1954 (along with George Washington Carver).

Despite the high esteem that history holds Mr. Washington in, this coin was not well received in its time. The large number of mints and multiple years of minting may also have played a part, since these required a major investment for collectors to complete the series. The coins were also minted after a glut of other commemorative half dollars, and collectors were growing tired of them. From 1954 to 1982, there would be a long gap before commemorative half dollars were minted again.

Booker T. Washington had a very interesting life – despite the mechanisms put in place by Reconstruction after the Civil War, Washington had difficulty finding work that would advance his skills. He started out laboring in a salt furnace and a coal mine before finally entering the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute in Hampton, Virginia in 1872. This trade school taught Mr. Washington skills that targeted a narrow role for freed slaves. He continued his education at the Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC and returned to Hampton in 1879 as an instructor. His first class was seventy-five Native Americans.

Washington’s success as an educator led to a major opportunity in 1881. He received a Federal Grant to develop a technical institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee Institute was built onto an abandoned church and opened its doors to thirty students in 1881. Booker T. Washington quickly expanded the facility, using his students as a construction and repair workforce. Most of the students were poor – their ‘tuition’ was paid in the form of labor during after school hours.

The curriculum focused on trade skills and manual labor, which led to criticism from Booker T Washington’s contemporaries and modern historians. Some feel that he played into stereotypical roles for the “proper place” in society for freed slaves. Others argue that he was a realist about making gradual progress. Regardless, he was able to navigate the cultural minefield and successfully solicited donations from many sources to build an effective and affordable facility.

Washington’s address during the opening ceremonies at Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition in 1895 drew nationwide attention and brought many donations. Booker T Washington’s  autobiography (Up from Slavery) brought further attention and funding. He published four other books that were also widely read:The Story of My Life and Work (1900), The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (1909), My Larger Education (1911), & The Man Farthest Down (1912).

Congress passed a bill authorizing production of the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar on August 7, 1946. Unlike the act funding the Iowa Commemorative Half Dollars (passed on the same day), the B. T. Washington Act led to an oversupply and over-variety of coins. A total of five million coins were authorized, which was far more than any other commemorative series had been able to sell. In addition, the bill did not limit production to a single date or mint, an oversight which the promoters took serious advantage of. 18 different date and mint combinations were produced between 1946 and 1951.

The coin’s purpose was to raise funds for the purchase and restoration of his birthplace site in Franklin County, Virginia. It was (rather naively/optimistically) expected that many of the nation’s 15 million African-Americans would be eager to buy one or more examples of this significant coin. Instead, the coins were sold almost exclusively to established coin collectors, who soon came to resent their overabundance and repetitive nature.

S. J. Phillips was in charge of the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial Commission, and he chose Sculptor Charles Keck to design the coin. Keck, who had previously created the Panama-Pacific Gold Dollar and the Lynchburg, Virginia Half Dollar, submitted models that were quickly approved by the U. S. Mint.

Without realizing that another artist had been engaged, African-American artist Isaac Scott Hathaway, volunteered his services for free. He used a life mask of Booker T. Washington and submitted his designs to SJ Phillips.

S. J. Phillips submitted both sets of models to the Commission of Fine Arts which, choseHathaway’s design. This caused a major controversy before mintage even began, and the BTW Birthplace Memorial Commission had to pay Keck for his work even though the Mint proceeded using Hathaway’s models.

The 1946-47 series were distributed directly by the BTW Commission, but the expected volume of sales did not materialize and many of the 1946 coins were melted down for their silver content. The coin dealership Bebee’s in Omaha handled sales from 1948 to 1951 and sold the majority of those coins directly to collectors. Huge quantities still went unsold and were passed around between coin dealers at wholesale prices. Small hoards existed for decades afterward and dragged down prices.

The organizer of the committee (S. J. Phillips) became mired in failed promises and charges of malfeasance. The money that was raised through the sale of these coins was insufficient for the original purpose of the program. In fact, the commission owed $140,000! Eventually, Virginia’s state government stepped in to purchase Booker T. Washington’s birthplace and presented it to the federal government. It is now a National Historic Monument.

Estimated Value: $15 to $20 in EF40 condition (with silver at $36/ounce).