Did Communist saboteurs sneak a hammer and sickle into the design of the Kennedy half dollar?

Dear Cecil:

I was in the fourth grade when the first Kennedy half-dollars came out. My friend Dominic Riccutti (who supposedly knew everything about everything) told me those little markings on Kennedy's neck were there because some Communist agents had broken into the mint and engraved the hammer and sickle on the original mold and it hadn't been caught in time before the new coins were struck. Well, that was over 20 years ago and I recently got a new Kennedy half-dollar at the 7-Eleven and the markings are still there! In all this time they've kept changing the dates but they've never cleaned up Kennedy's neck. Is this all part of some pinko plot to subvert America by secretly marking our coins?

Cecil replies:

I think after 20 years, Andy, the hypothesis might have formed in my mind that maybe this Riccutti kid was putting me on. The alleged commie graffito is really the initials of the man who designed the front side of the coin — GR, for Gilroy Roberts, former chief engraver at the U.S. Mint. Gil’s monogram looks like two stylized G’s set back-to-back, and under the influence of liquor or bad companions I suppose you could make it out to be a pair of hammers and sickles. The other side of the coin was designed by Frank Gasparro; his FG can be found just under the eagle’s left thigh — not the place I’d choose to put my monogram (when was the last time you saw an eagle take a bath?), but I guess Frank wasn’t one to make a fuss. You want a real scandal, check out the “3172” in the bushes on the $5 bill. If that isn’t the handiwork of the Illuminati, my name ain’t Cecil Adams.

The saboteurs return!

Cecil was recently shocked to learn that a tiny Star of David had been etched into the portrait on a $1 U.S. stamp by a rogue government engraver. The star, which is too small to be seen with the naked eye, can be found in the beard of Hebrew educator Bernard Revel. Officials said the star is the work of engraver Kenneth Kipperman, who has since been arrested for threatening to blow up the site of the planned U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. What exactly the point of this little stunt was has not been disclosed.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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