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Q&A: Yes, the Treasury still mints half dollars

Tracking 'Midsomer Murders'

Will Midsomer Murders ever return to the United States on the A&E network or BBC America?

Episodes of Midsomer Murders, a stylish English drama centering on Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby's crime-solving in the snooty fictional county of Midsomer, have been purchased exclusively by American Public Television. APT buys rights to programs and resells them to public TV stations.

However, the two public TV stations in the Tampa Bay area, WEDU and WUSF, did not purchase the rights to broadcast the show, according to APT's Mike Nadeau. About 11 U.S. markets have, and episodes in those markets will be shown through April 2011.

Nadeau said DVDs of the show are available through www.aptonline.org and such retailers as Acorn Media and Amazon.

John Nettles, who plays Barnaby, announced in February he was stepping out of the role after the 13th season, with his final episode being shown in early 2011. There are plans to replace him and film a 14th season.

Treasury still mints half dollars

How come we never get half dollars as change these days? I can't remember the last time I received one. Is the Treasury not minting them anymore?

Half-dollar coins have been minted every year since 1794 (though no known half dollars are dated 1975). Only the penny has been minted more consistently.

As you have noticed, though, their circulation is fairly limited. Why?

About three months after President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, his image was placed on the half dollar, replacing Benjamin Franklin. Collectors began hoarding them for sentimental reasons, but also because they were the only U.S. coin still containing silver, which was rising in value.

By 1971, when the coin's composition was switched to match the new dimes and quarters, the nation had adapted to not having half dollars in general circulation. People were used to getting change in two quarters. Businesses stopped stocking them for change, and banks subsequently quit handing them out. And vending machines do not accept them, which further limits their usefulness.

As their circulation dwindled, the U.S. Mint stopped producing so many. In 1967, the Mint made 295 million Kennedy half dollars. Ten years later it was 74 million. By 1987 it was less than 6 million and in 2008 only 3.4 million were made.

By comparison, in 2008 there were more than 1 billion pennies made, 296 million quarters, 146 million dimes and 79 million nickels.

Since 2001, half-dollar coins have been produced primarily for collectors. Outside of that, you're most likely to see them if you go to a casino, where they are often used for antes.

Q&A: Yes, the Treasury still mints half dollars 07/05/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 5, 2009 4:30am]
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