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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 3, January 16, 2011, Article 6

BOOK REVIEWS: A GUIDE BOOK OF FRANKLIN & KENNEDY HALF DOLLARS

Michael E. Marotta submitted the following review of Rick Tomaska's Guide Book of Franklin & Kennedy Half Dollars. Thanks! -Editor

A Guide Book of Franklin & Kennedy Half Dollars by Rick Tomaska (Whitman Publishing LLC, 2011; 273 + x pages; $19.95)

Whitman continues to exceed the standards it sets. Designed to serve its substantive subject material, this new book will contribute to the growth of yet another new subgenre in American collecting. For at least 20 years, the median age in our hobby has been near 55. The Kennedy Half Dollar is almost 50 years old. Today's collectors do not remember Walking Liberties and the occasional V-Nickel. For them, the Franklin and Kennedy half dollars are history. Though delivering an expert analysis of each series by Date, Mintmark and Variety, this book bestows much more.

Despite the intention of mass production, no two coins are alike. Uncirculated and Proof coins are individuals. Author Rick Tomaska warns against assuming that you can find a coin "just as nice" for much less in an online auction. These are coins that truly must be seen to be appreciated. You can find them in sight-unseen auction, but gaining the true value in ownership requires that you know the histories of the grading standards better than you know the histories of the men on the obverses.

Tomaska explains the details of die and planchet preparation specific to these coins, including facts and speculations on the timings of the acid baths for the dies. Die material, the tempering of steel, press operation and maintenance, the repolishing of dies all of this is the background to explain why the Ultra Cameo Proofs are so rare. The author's Acknowledgements nods to four mint employees: two press operators (Don Weaver and Mark Layfield); a die setter (Ed Fulwider); and a foreman (Mike Allphin).

At this level of quality, so close to perfection, a coin can be rejected for hairlines, planchet flow, being struck through lint, and having milk spots. Different standards apply to Cameo, Deep Cameo, and Ultra Cameo. A section on "The Upgrade Factor" tells the story of an NGC PF-67 Cameo 1950, a $15,000 beauty that became a $100,000 treasure when resubmitted, earning a PF-67 UC grade and being crowned the finest known 1950 by two points.

The Kennedy Half Dollar stands apart from the Franklin by several measures. The Special Mint Sets (1965-1967) and the Bicentennial issues earn consideration. Now, the most recent production, 1990-present, trivializes all but the perfect examples, with Proof-69 and Proof-70 being relatively easy to find, and Ultra Cameos bringing only a small premium over the issue price.

That paradigm explains why for each coin by year and Mint, the body of this book tabulates populations, not prices. Valuation is by adjective. Tomaska cites ranges - $800 to $2500, $1200 to $1500, or even $40 to $60 - noting that nicer examples can bring 25% to 50% more. Valuations are quantified and tabulated in Appendix B. Appendix A is a splash of high grade, Mint State and Proof rainbow toned Franklin and Kennedy half dollars.

Tomaska states a truism: unlike oil, no amount of new technology can unlock hidden reserves of these coins. That applies to colonial coppers, of course. And it may be that the aficionado of the one is not the maven of the other. If that speculation is accurate, one can only ask: Why not?

Here's another review submitted by John and Nancy Wilson. -Editor

A Guidebook of Franklin and Kennedy Half Dollars is a 304 page soft cover book and is the 15th entry in Whitman's bestselling Bowers Series of numismatic reference books. Franklin and Kennedy half dollars are not only a popular series but very affordable.

The book gives detailed coin by coin information by date, mintmark and die variety for both Franklin half dollars and Kennedy half dollars. This study gives tips for smart buying along with variety characteristics and mintages and certified populations.

Rick Tomaska specialized in high grade proofs and cameo and deep cameo proofs as early as the 1980s. He also specialized in full bell lines on the Franklin half as well. The actual production of the coins including the preparation of the dies and planchets along with their influence on the finished coins is covered. A full color picture of every coin in the two series is also shown.

Nine pages of beautifully toned coins and their certified grade are also included for comparison. This book covers all the information you would ever want to know about the series.

For more information on this reference which sells retail for $19.95 you can contact the publisher at: Whitman Publishing, LLC, 3101 Clairmont Road, Suite G, Atlanta, GA 30329, Phone (404) 235-5300 or fax to (404) 235-5350 or visit the Whitman web page at: http:/www.whitmanbooks.com

Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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