Proof coin reveals one style of mintmark punched over another
Submitted for attribution under NGC’s VarietyPlus Service by Florida dealer Bob Ryan, the coin was at first suspected to be a normal “S” mintmark punched over an inverted impression of the same letter; however, the 1968-S Proof coin turned out to be so much more.
Enlarged photographs of the mintmark area revealed two oddities—one is the mintmark, which is of a style not seen on other 1968-S half dollars or San Francisco Mint coins of the period; in fact, NGC Research Director David Lange was unable to place it on any other coin.
Thinking the mintmark may have been used on a foreign coin struck by the San Francisco Mint, Lange showed the coin to colleague David Camire, an NGC finalizer and error coin specialist, who consulted an extensive database of world coins made by the U.S. Mint. He, too, was unable to find a match for the mintmark style.
The mintmark’s second peculiar feature is a knob that projects to the side of each serif, hinting at another underlying style of mintmark.
Lange sent photos of the mystery coin to several variety and error experts for their opinions.
Bill Fivaz, co-author of The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, suggested the underlying letter is similar to the Knob-Tail “S” last used on San Francisco Mint coins in the late 1940s. He also speculated that the primary mintmark was itself inverted; however, its nearly symmetrical shape makes this difficult to confirm.
Another variety and error specialist, Ken Potter, revealed he’d seen a box full of different puncheons while taking a tour of the Philadelphia Mint in 1998. These puncheons were preserved by the Engraving Department’s Edgar Steever, who’d been at the Mint for decades and was reportedly the main applier of mintmarks before this feature began to be sculpted into the master dies starting in the 1980s. It’s possible any number of different mintmark styles remained on hand in 1968.
Retired numismatist and respected researcher Tom DeLorey agreed two different mintmarks had been applied to the coin.
NGC has assigned its own VarietyPlus number of “VP-003” to this “remarkable” variety, labeling the Ryan specimen as “SERIF S/KNOB S,” indicating the application of one mintmark style over another. The coin—described as a “particularly attractive piece”—was certified as NGC Proof 67 and given NGC’s Star designation to denote its “superior eye appeal as a one-sided cameo coin” (the reverse does not possess frosted devices).
“It’s anticipated that the rush will be on to find additional examples of this fascinating new variety,” reads a press release from NGC. “Such coins may be submitted to NGC for grading and encapsulation at the normal tier rate, with an additional $15 fee for variety attribution. Coins already certified by NGC may have a variety added for the same $15 fee, which includes the cost of reholdering.”
1964 to DATE
According to NGC’s VarietyPlus website, when the Kennedy half dollar debuted in March 1964, the circulation of this type of coin was “already dwindling.”
“In fact, the first year’s production of Kennedy half dollars was almost entirely hoarded by speculators and those seeking souvenirs of the martyred president,” reads the website. “Combined with a great reduction in the silver content of the half dollar beginning in 1965, the result was an almost total removal from circulation of half dollar coins. Thus, this type is rarely seen in grades below Extremely Fine.”