2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Production

by Rhonda Kay on October 27, 2014 · 10 comments

This is the last of three articles about the 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin. The first article presented a photo overview of the coin and the second described its laser and polishing treatments. This article, a collaborative effort from brothers Mike and Darrin Unser, includes 30 photos and 7 videos showing how the coins are produced at the San Francisco Mint.

Excitement is building with just hours remaining until 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collections become available. The four-coin set from the United States Mint launches on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 at noon EDT for $99.95.

Production photos of 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin

Production photos of 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin

Its four 90% silver Kennedy half-dollars are in four different finishes with each struck at a different U.S. Mint facility. Our interest in the set has grown because we saw two of the four coins produced. As a quick primer, the collection of coins includes:

  • one 2014-D Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar from the U.S. Mint at Denver
  • one 2014-P Proof Kennedy Half-Dollar from the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia
  • one 2014-W Reverse Proof Kennedy Half-Dollar from the U.S. Mint at West Point
  • one 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollar from the U.S. Mint at San Francisco

In July, we watched reverse proofs getting struck during our visit to West Point and then in September we saw how enhanced uncirculated halves are produced at San Francisco. We published enhanced uncirculated coin photos last month, but we wanted to talk about how they’re made. Fortunately, we have more photos to aid in describing the process.

Before getting into production details, here are very high-resolution photos of two 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollar dies. When clicking on the photos, you can actually see the polish and frosting enhancements.

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar - Obverse Die

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Obverse Die

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar - Reverse Die

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Reverse Die

The enhancements are unique with heavy frosting on the obverse portrait, lettering, and border. The border and lettering on the reverse also show heavy frosting with moderate frosting for artistic detail seen on the eagle. In addition, the stars on the dies underwent a laser polish technique to further accentuate them from the field behind.

Now, let’s get into how the coins are produced…

Adding Designs and Finish to Dies

It starts with the designs. Kennedy half-dollars debuted in 1964 with designs that include an obverse portrait of President John F. Kennedy by Gilroy Roberts and a reverse based on the Presidential Seal by Frank Gasparro. The reverse has stayed the same over the years but Kennedy’s portrait was modified significantly in the 1990s. Adding to the distinction of all 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy coinage, they feature a restored 1964 Kennedy portrait. The idea came from San Francisco Mint employee Michael Levin, which we plan to discuss in a later article.

San Francisco mint employee Michael Levin

San Francisco Mint employee Michael Levin fostered the idea to use the original Kennedy portrait of 1964 on 50th anniversary Kennedy coinage. In this picture, Levin is seen holding dies of one of those coins.

When designs are completed, they must be transferred to dies and then treated with manual and automated methods to produce the different collectible finishes. As a quick backdrop, dies are metal stamping tools that are placed inside coining presses. They hold the negative image of a coin’s design and are pressed against planchets to create coins.

Supervisory Engraving Engineer Linh Un, SF Mint

Supervisory Engraving Engineer Linh Un explains the enhanced frost process for the dies.

Below are two photos of obverse and reverse dies for 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollars. The first photo offers a close-up of a pair while the second photo shows two fitted within collars so they can be installed inside a coining press (more about that later).

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Dies

Completed 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Dies


2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Dies in Collars

2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar Dies in coining press collars

For enhanced uncirculated dies, they receive unique treatments to include varying intensities of laser frosting and polishing applications.

Treatment for the 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar

Treatments for the 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Silver Half-Dollar: Yellow = Enhanced Wire Brushing; Purple = Heavy Laser Frosting; Blue = Standard Laser Frosting; and White = Laser Polished

These next series of 5 photos and 2 videos show die equipment demonstrations and some of the people we talked to while visiting the die department of the San Francisco Mint.

Coining Manager Paul Lewis and Die Polish Supervisor Monica Barnes, SF Mint

Coining Manager Paul Lewis and Die Polish Supervisor Monica Barnes lead the tour of the die polishing department

Buffer Polisher Pansy Meir explains the polishing process

Buffer Polisher Pansy Meir explains the polishing process

Buffer Polisher Mai Yee explains, SF Mint

Buffer Polisher Mai Yee explains the auto polishing process utilizing Gerber machinery

 

Die Finishing Specialist Monte Bolmer, SF Mint

Die Finishing Specialist Monte Bolmer demonstrates the laser process

Screen shot of FOBA G-10 Laser showing enhanced frost programming detail

Screen shot of FOBA G-10 Laser showing enhanced frost programming detail

 

With designs imparted and finish applied, dies are placed within a Physical Vapor Deposition Chamber for chroming treatment. Dies are impacted with tons of pressure in coining presses. That takes a toll over time. To survive longer in that environment, dies are chrome-plated using the PVD process.

PVD Clean Room, SF Mint

(Left to Right) Production Machinery Mechanic Shaun Castro; Buffer Polisher Robert Nyein; Electronic Industrial Control Mechanic Leonel Toribo; and TEER Factory Technician performing the Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process which applies a hard chrome coating which increases the wear resistance of the die.

Nitrogen pass through, SF Mint

Nitrogen pass through used for transferring dies to the PVD Clean Room

For additional background on the methods described above, last year we published a detailed article about how the San Francisco Mint prepares dies.

Making Planchets for 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollars

Planchets must be created for dies to be of any use. Planchets are the nearly featureless metal discs that become coins when they’re struck by dies in coining presses.

Silver Kennedy half-dollar planchets

Two stacks of silver Kennedy half-dollar planchets are ready for a coining press. They were created by annealing, burnishing and upsetting blanks.

First, the U.S. Mint at San Francisco gets silver blanks cut to the size of a coin. These are produced and purchased from outside vendors. The Mint then turns blanks into planchets by running them through annealing and upsetting machines.

Darrin Unser, CoinNews, and Material Treatment Supervisor Ralph Hodge, SF Mint

Darrin Unser, CoinNews.net; Ralph Hodge, Material Treatment Supervisor, leads the tour of the material treatment area for the processing of blanks.

The annealing process heats and cools blanks to strengthen them. The upsetting process pinches blanks to add outer rims, making them planchets. We walked through these two stages quickly, and frankly didn’t snap photos. For reference, we included two that were taken during our last visit to the San Francisco Mint.

San Francisco Annealing Furnace

Large furnace used to anneal blanks (Tom Jurkowsky in background)

Upsetting Mill at San Francisco Mint

Upsetting mill which puts a rim effect around blanks

Planchets are automatically burnished, giving them a sharp shine. Burnishing machines at the San Francisco Mint, like the one shown in the video below, polish planchets to a sharp shine. Planchets are mixed with pellets and cleaning and anti-tarnishing solutions, spun in a bowl for several minutes, tipped out when ready, separated, automatically dried, and then manually racked.

 

David Atienza and Victor Gomez, SF Mint

Heat Treater Work Leader David Atienza (left) and Heat Treater Victor Gomez (right) rack finished planchets

In going the extra mile and unique to the Mint, planchets are then manually washed, dried, buffed and re-racked. They’re now ready for coining.

Die Setter/Metal Forming Machine Operator Gary Ruvo adds silver planchets to a bucket for washing.

Die Setter/Metal Forming Machine Operator Gary Ruvo adds silver planchets to a bucket for washing.

Ruvo washing silver planchets

Ruvo washing silver planchets

Ruvo demonstrates the preparation of blanks prior to the stamping process.

Ruvo demonstrates the preparation of blanks prior to the stamping process.

Here’s a short video showing the buffing process.

 

Once again, for additional background on the methods described above, last year we described in much more detail how the San Francisco Mint prepares coin blanks.

Producing 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollars

One step closer to an actual coin, planchets are automatically fed into coining presses that force the obverse and reverse dies together. In between the dies, which act like a hammer and anvil, the planchet is struck and becomes a 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Silver Half-Dollar.

In the next photo and video, we see Die Setter William Tan. The video shows Tan assembling the die tooling for the obverse of the 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar.

Die Setter William Tan, SF Mint

Die Setter William Tan demonstrates coin stamping.

 

And in the next photo and video, we see Die Setter Stanley Mayfield. The video shows Mayfield assembling the die tooling for the reverse of the 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar.

Die Setter Stanley Mayfield, SF Mint

Die Setter Stanley Mayfield demonstrates die setting and the tooling involved.

 

These next two photos show the inside working area of a coining press.

Coining Press, SF Mint

The center area of a coining press

Close-up of Coining Press, SF Mint

Here is a close-up of a coining press striking 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollars. In the middle you can see a freshly minted half-dollar as well as the reverse die tooling. At the back of the press you can see a blank planchet that is about to get moved in for striking.

And this video shows how quickly the coining presses strike the half-dollars.

 

As an interesting sidebar, U.S. Mint production facilities keep the first and last collectible coin struck by a die.

First Coin from Kennedy Silver Half-Dollar Die Usage

For quality control, the Mint vaults the first and last numismatic coin struck by a die. This photo shows the first coin struck by a 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half-Dollar die.

Finally, 2014-S Enhanced Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollars are encapsulated at San Francisco, but they’re not packaged there. That’s a job tasked to the Denver Mint.

Coin Assembly Machine Operator Veronica Valdez, SF Mint

Coin Assembly Machine Operator Veronica Valdez is shown encapsulating coins

2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection

U.S. Mint image of its 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection

When released at noon EDT on Oct. 28, the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection may be ordered from this United States Mint online product page.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff October 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Isn’t that interesting? Nobody actually gets a true ‘first strike’ coin, since the mint keeps them.

colec October 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Yep, if you call the mint, they’ll tell you all the coins go out at the same time. The presales and grading is another money market for special people.

Kevin October 28, 2014 at 1:03 am

Nice photos and videos. Thanks to the Unser brothers for racing to get this info here before the coins go on sale. Bobby and Al would be proud.

RonnieBGood October 28, 2014 at 10:35 am

Rhonda Kay,
Does the Mint retire the Obverse and Reverse Coin Die’s at the same time?

Legend October 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

First day ordering on the new website at 12:00 was a breeze! I was complete within minutes, less than ten minutes!!! Purchased the max, with next day air. 20 COINS FOR $520.00 DOLLARS!!!
That makes them $26.00 Dollars per coin. And all these coins come from DIFFERENT DIES than even the two coin set offered earlier.
This year for the Kennedy Half, on the anniversary of his untimely end, now takes on a celebratory glow, with all of us now remembering Mr Kennedy through beautiful new enhanced halves.
A fitting way to remember someone as beloved….thank you U.S. Mint.
Legend

BIG JOHN October 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I tried to order on the internet 3 different times during the day and each time the website froze during checking out. I then tried to call. It took me 10 calls to place the order. The phone lines was giving me a busy signal everytime I clicled the number 1 key to order. The phone operator was sooo nice and pleasant. She apologized for the website issues and for the busy signal. She had a supervisor authorize free shipping for me. I am not a habitual complainer, I was really surprised about the service I got on the phones.

RJ October 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I must say i was shocked waited till noon on site 3 minutes max had my 5 sets and not long e-mail confirmation then shipped same day! And i thought this would be another train wreck the Mint has done a great job and i have been hard on there surveys,sorry.Watching them clean planchets so carefully is nice i dont know how many Franklin halves and Kennedys suffered milk spots from soap residue not being cleaned but thats history!Would love to have that 1st or last coin they mint for my collection! LOL….

Legend November 1, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Triple Strikes…..Reverse Proof obverse.

Robert W. Lobenstein November 7, 2014 at 8:04 am

After getting the wonderful walking liberty dollar in Enhanced-Uncirculated, I must say that the new 2014 50th anniversary Kennedy half was a bit of a letdown. Some coins with exquisite details may come out looking great under this E-H process. The Kennedy half had little to work with and other than a nice frosting, it really did not improve the looks of the coin. Maybe the mint will be very selective in future coinage when issuing the E-H finish. Bob Lobenstein

dennis abbott February 11, 2015 at 4:17 pm

I ordered 6 of the 50th anniversary silver Kennedy half dollars sets and on one of the sets the uncirculated half dollar had a die break on the reverse. The break starts on the right hand side (my right) of the eagles wing and runs down to the bottom of the arrows in the eagles claw. Very noticible with the naked eye. I just want to know if any one else has found this error.

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