October 22, 2014
Michael Levin, Management Assistant, Inventory Management Division has long been regarded as the San Francisco Mint’s resident authority on coins and Mint history.
Michael’s fascination with coins began with his visits to the old Emporium Department Store in San Francisco…specifically, the first floor Stamp & Coin Department, where he noticed proof sets and other intriguing items. Later, Michael’s interest was piqued when an uncle showed him his proof sets from the 1950s. His uncle also told him how to buy one of his own from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The year was 1964, the proof set cost $2.10, and that was about as much money as young Michael could scrape together.
His new interest stalled from 1965–1967, when the U.S. Mint stopped manufacturing proof coins due to a serious circulating coin shortage. Michael managed to complete just one set of coins from circulation before silver coins disappeared–the Roosevelt Dimes of 1946-1964.
While happy to see the return of proof coinage in 1968–now minted in his native San Francisco–his interest in collecting waned a bit in the ‘70s & ‘80s, but his interest in history remained strong. “It’s fascinating to imagine the people who must have handled coins of the past that are now in collections and museums–people of ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, and of China of centuries ago” Levin said. “For most of history, money meant coins, not paper. The very words ‘money’ and ‘mint’ are both derived from the name of Juno Moneta, the Roman goddess in whose temple coins were struck in ancient Rome.”
“For more than 2,550 years, circulating coins were a real store of value, in the form of gold and silver. Although precious metal coins no longer circulate, they are still much sought after throughout the world in the form of modern bullion and commemorative coins, as well as the old gold and silver coins that actually used to circulate,” Michael added.
Michael’s passion for history is why it makes sense that he would be the one to suggest that for the 2014 Kennedy Half Dollar 50th Anniversary Coins, the Mint should use the original Kennedy portrait of 1964, instead of the portrait that was greatly modified in the 1990s. The idea was embraced by collectors and the Mint.
When asked what his most prized coin is, he replies “it’s probably the little 1901 5–rouble Russian coin given to me by another uncle who brought it with him when he immigrated to the United States. Along with that, it would have to be the 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollars that I will purchase since I played a small part in their design, which is extremely gratifying, but which I still find hard to believe!”
For more information about the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar products, visit the U.S. Mint website.
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