Folks line up for commemorative Kennedy gold coin
It was a mob scene, though a somewhat orderly one, at the U.S. Mint on Tuesday.
Starting at noon, hundreds of people, almost all of them working for private coin dealers, were waiting on Fifth Street between Arch and Race Streets to be allowed to enter the gift shop - 10 at a time - to purchase a 50th anniversary commemorative President John F. Kennedy half-dollar made of ".9999 fine, 24-karat gold," to quote the Mint.
The cost of the coin, which weighs three-quarters of a troy ounce: $1,240.
First in line was a vet in a wheelchair, Joe Grover, of Kensington, who opened the box to show off the shiny coin for reporters.
Grover was also first in the morning line, where the wait was for 500 golden tickets conferring the right to return for the noontime sale. Mint officials started handing them out about 8:15, eventually turning about 200 people away.
But that was hardly the beginning.
Grover said he arrived Monday at 2:30 p.m. after a friend called about an easy way to make some cash.
Sharon Patriaco of Lakewood, N.J., also arrived Monday afternoon, and said the crowd grew to "hundreds" by 11 p.m.
Grace Scarano of Olney, Md., was simply walking by late Monday afternoon, when the crowd caught her attention. She signed up, got her wristband, and wound up being one of the first to buy a coin, accompanied by her young son, Noah.
"Four hundred dollars" seemed to be the going rate for standing in line on behalf of clients, judging from a quick survey of a dozen people. The range mentioned was $300 to $600.
About 8 a.m. Tuesday, the pack of proxies, permitted back on Mint property, began running up a ramp to form the official line for tickets. One of the organizers, Marc Scher, shouted a series of explanations and exhortations to behave.
Mint spokesman Tim Grant said the scene in the morning was like nothing he had seen in his 30 years of service with the facility.
About 8:15 a.m., one by one, people were finally let through.
Scher, who lives in Bucks County, said he organized one group for a friend, and used word of mouth to recruit participants. The group, said another member, was affiliated with the Argent Group, of Wilmington, which features gold bullion on its website's home page.
The second group was working for a California dealer, according to a young organizer who declined to be identified. They used the Facebook page for Heery Casting to spread the word about the gig.
The 500 limit was just for today, Grant explained, since the coins can be ordered online or by mail from the Mint.
First-day editions, however, are especially valuable, and the key is obtaining a dated receipt, so an authenticator can create a specially marked case, a young assistant for the second group explained.
Then there's the Kennedy mystique, coupled with reverence in the coin world for the design of the Kennedy half-dollar, making this 50th anniversary edition even more valuable to collectors.
Commemorative JFK half dollars, with just "2014" instead of "1964-2014," are also available in much cheaper silver sets.