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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

Kennedy half: Was it an entry wound?
July 19, 2007

Many times bizarre rumors emerge about coins and continue to be repeated and repeated and repeated. When the Franklin half appeared, in 1948, some came to believe that the "JRS" initials on the front of coin represented Joseph Stalin. A version of this tale was that a Communist was lurking in the U.S. Mint, who secretly placed Stalin's initials on the coin.

A more plausible explanation, and the correct one, is that "JRS" stood for the coin's designer, John R. Sinnock.

When the Kennedy half hit the streets, in 1964, some thought the stylized initials of Gilroy Roberts, designer of the coin's obverse, looked like Russia's hammer and sickle.

More stunning, however, was the claim that the placement of the stylized "GR" at truncation of the bust of Kennedy (above the "WE" in "IN GOD WE TRUST" marked the spot where one of Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets struck the president. Or, could the shot have come from someone on the grassy knoll?

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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