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Where do we Go Next?
January 20, 2009

Today is inauguration day for President Barack Obama. This event and its predecessors always remind me of the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. This isn't due to any similarity or or any parallel. It is simply because the 1961 event is the first one of which I have any memory at all.

I don't remember watching the event, but even at my advanced age of five and a half, I could not help but hear the "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country" line that Kennedy spoke. I suppose I heard this on the radio or saw this on an evening news show when watched by my parents. I don't really remember that part of it. But the famous line reverberates in my mind. It probably helps that the clip was repeated many times through the years.

Will there be an equally famous line today that we will all remember? We will see.

Numismatically, the Kennedy administration was full of change. It became legal to own Gold Certificates again. We lost Silver Certificates to Federal Reserve Notes.

The handwriting was on the wall for silver in coinage as the Treasury directed price of the metal crept ever closer to the point at which it would exceed face value. It hit $1.2929 in September of 1963, which is the point where the silver in the silver dollar is worth $1.

This development set off the great adventure and chain of events we are still on today. Collectors lament the loss of silver in coins, which occurred under the terms of the Coinage Act of 1965.

The rosey glow of memory makes for silly claims. I have even gotten a letter saying that silver wore better than the clad coinage. That isn't true, but in the misty idealized past, it should have been.

Where will this attachment to precious metals take us next?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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