Browsing Tag

John F. Kennedy

All About the Benjamins

This was my gateway coin.

I was in middle school when I happened to see it in an old bowl of change in my parents’ room and was immediately intrigued. I had seen half dollars before, but only ones with John F. Kennedy on them. I had never seen one with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. Yet, here it was, forgotten about and collecting dust in a bowl so dirty that the amount of effort it would take to make it suitable for food consumption again wouldn’t have been worth it.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated (by the coin, not the bowl) and asked my mom if I could have it. “Sure,” she said with a shrug – never imagining that it would lead to a lifetime of coin collecting on my part. Or maybe she was just happy I was interested in something besides baseball cards or Garbage Pail Kids. After all, coin collecting is the hobby of kings. Literally.

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The Great Compromiser: Henry Clay Tokens (UPDATED)

It may not be in vogue anymore, but there have been several well-respected figures in American history who have lost a Presidential election as a major party nominee, only to come back and win the White House. Thomas Jefferson lost a razor-thin contest in 1796 and won four years later. Andrew Jackson prevailed in 1828, four years after he lost in a contingent election before the House of Representatives. Grover Cleveland attained his status as a trivia question by serving his two nonconsecutive terms between a losing effort in 1888. Heck, I wrote an entire book about how Richard Nixon survived losing the 1960 race to JFK only to prevail in 1968.

Of course, not everyone managed to pull off successful comebacks. Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896, 1900, and 1908 and he lost all three times. Democrats also trotted out Adlai Stevenson twice, losing two lopsided contests to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Republican Thomas Dewey looked set to win in 1948, four years after he lost to FDR, only to famously not defeat Harry Truman. And, during the days when Presidential elections were more regional in nature, men like Charles Pinckney, George Clinton, John Jay, Rufus King and others found themselves on the short end of multiple general election ballots, although their level of interest or involvement varied.

Then there’s Henry Clay.

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Bicentennial Coins: A Great Way to Start – or Resume – Coin Collecting

I’ve loved collecting coins ever since I started hoarding my parents’ old pocket change as a child. I think it was the intersection of law, politics, history and art that appealed to me. That, and I figured coins were a good investment (they’ll always be worth something, right?). Despite that, my interest in numismatics has waned over the last decade. The Great Recession inflated the price of silver and gold, making it difficult for me to acquire new coins to add to my already large collection. For personal reasons (as well as the fact that silver prices have gone down), I’ve been getting back into the hobby as of late. In trying to learn more about the coins I already have, as well as the ones I’ve recently acquired, I figured I might as well write about them. So here we go…

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The Last Press Conference (Part I) (BOOK EXCERPT)

Richard Nixon was in a foul mood when he took to the stage inside the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton on the morning of November 7, 1962. Sometimes, it could be hard to tell how he was feeling. He was an enigma even to his friends and admirers, while his enemies—well, his enemies were so numerous and varied that, one day, he would have his own official “Enemies List” that consisted of hundreds of names yet still seemed incomplete. On this morning, though, his feelings were pretty obvious to anyone with a pulse. He was so furious that one could almost see the proverbial steam coming from his ears as feelings of bitterness and failure permeated from his pores.

Worse, he’d have to face perhaps his greatest enemy: the press. He had once been their darling, harnessing their approval and acclaim to facilitate a rapid rise through the Republican ranks to become one of the most famous politicians in the country. Now he considered the media to be an implacable foe that was largely responsible for his current predicament.

It was the day after the California gubernatorial election, and Nixon had just gotten humiliated at the polls. Only two years earlier, the two-term vice president had nearly fulfilled his lifelong ambition when he came within an eyelash of winning the presidency in one of the closest elections in American history. That race, against John F. Kennedy, had also been one of the most controversial, marred by accusations of voter fraud, ballot box stuffing, and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago playing the part of Victor Frankenstein by resurrecting thousands of dead men to vote Democratic.

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