The Kennedy Half Dollar

The Kennedy Half Dollar or the Half Dollar was created as a way of commemorating late President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. The fifty-cent coin was approved by the Congress shortly after his death after a new Act was passed to aid in the of making the Kennedy Half Dollar a reality.

Despite the huge mintage of this silver coin totaling to almost 425 million pieces, lots of people have decided to hoard the Kennedy Half Dollar as a special keepsake. Only a few made their way into the circulation but these were almost immediately withdrawn. Up until this day, it remains to be a popular coin among collectors.

The History of the Kennedy Half Dollar

Ricce, Dollaro Kennedy 1968, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

On November 22, 1963, the 35th President of the United States, President John F. Kennedy was riding on the Presidential Limousine with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy sitting beside him, Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie Connally seated on the seat in front of him and a driver agent and a PRS agent on the front seats. They were in a motorcade in Texas when the assassination took place.

Just one hour after the incident, the beloved President was proclaimed dead. The awful news shocked the whole nation. In honor of President Kennedy, various memorials were made – and one of the most popular ones was the Kennedy Half Dollar.

Shortly after the heartbreaking tragedy, US Mint Director Miss Eva Adams called US Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts. Since the Mint seriously wants to make a coin in honor of President Kennedy, a new design is needed. It was not certain which US dollar coin will be replaced by the commemorative coin, but the Mint is considering either the one dollar, half a dollar or the quarter silver dollar coin.

The next phone call he received from Miss Adams was a day or so after the first one. He received news that Mrs. Kennedy did not want to have the quarter dollar replaced with his late husband’s portrait and that it would be best to keep President Washington’s portrait on the said coin. However, the US Mint has chosen the half silver dollar instead. It will bear President JFK’s Mint list medal as well as the Presidential seal for the design.

The Kennedy Half Dollar Coin’s design was immediately put into action. Roberts started working on the head or obverse of the coin where President JFK’s portrait will be featured, while the other side of the coin or the reverse will bear the Presidential seal. It was crafted by Roberts’ assistant engraver, Frank Gasparro. Gasparro was Gilroy’s assistant for many years by then, and both were more than perfect for the job.

Both Roberts and Gasparro had sculpted numerous medal designs for the US Mint in the past. Roberts recently prepared the designs for the 1948 Benjamin Franklin Half Silver Dollars sculpted by John. R Sinnock while Gasparro made the design on the reverse of the 1964 Lincoln Cent.

The two worked fast and didn’t waste any time because of two main reasons. First, it was already almost the end of the year and the US Department of Treasury no longer wanted to issue more of the 1964 Franklin Half Dollars by the following year. Second, there was a current shortage involving all coins nationwide. They needed to prepare the designs for the new Kennedy Half Dollar Coins for next year.

Just days after, Robert was able to finish his design for the obverse after using the existing JFK’s portrait in Presidential medal as his model. Gasparro also made sure his design for the reverse was ready. On December 13, 1963, the first trial strikes for the Kennedy Half Dollar were delivered to Miss Adams, the Mind Director. Mrs. Kennedy and U. S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President Kennedy came to check on the designs a few days after the Mint received them.

Additional trial strike coins were made after Roberts included some of the comments made by President Kennedy’s widow. Douglas Dillon, current US Treasury Secretary at that time came in to check on the revised models and approved the designs after making sure Mrs. Kennedy’s requests were included.

During all this frenzy, there was a major complication for the task at hand. Because of the Coinage Act of 1890, the only time the US Mint is allowed to issue a new design for the coins is after 25 years of issuance. This only meant that every coin created, the design used will be sustained and used for a minimum number of 25 years before it can be replaced.

Since the Franklin Half Dollar is just 15 years old, it was too early for the design to be replaced, and the only way to make the Kennedy Half Dollar the soonest time possible is if the Congress will permit the move. Dedicated supporters of the commemorative coin made sure to pursue this in Congress, and after debates that only took a few weeks, a legislation was passed. In honor of the popular slain president, President Kennedy, the making of the Kennedy Half Dollar was approved by the Act of December 30, 1963.

By early 1964, the first proof coins of the Kennedy Half Dollar were done and were distributed. Come January 30, 1964, the US Mint located at Denver started producing the regular issued Kennedy Half Dollar coins. A week after, the Philadelphia Mint started their own production as well. Even if these were already minted by the two US Mints, the public had to wait up until March before they laid their hands on the coin.

The long-awaited Kennedy Half Dollar was finally released on the 24th of March, 1964. Banks have tried to limit the supply of the new coin, but since the public had very much anticipated the Silver dollar coin, they were quickly stripped of supplies. People crowded the banks asking for the new Half Dollar and was never really used by the public for circulation. The ones that did make it to the circulation were quickly pulled out.

The Kennedy Half Dollar was treated as a memento – a keepsake that people didn’t want to use for commerce. Interestingly enough, these were not only cherished by his loved ones and the people of the United States but even some of Kennedy’s foreign aficionados.

Even if there was way more Kennedy Half Dollars produced than the previous one, the coins disappeared the soonest time they were released, only to be kept by the public. Because of this, the coin shortage in the US continued even if a new coin was released. The Congress had to make a decision in order to address the issue, so they made a legislation that permitted the 1964 dates on the existing US coins up until the crisis settles down.

The decision was a critical one and aimed to discourage the public, collectors, and speculators who were persistent in hoarding the Kennedy Half Dollars. Others, however, claims that coin hoarding was not the problem but the ways the coins were distributed and reused.

In 1965, a compromise for the Kennedy Half Dollar was made. This was because the Congress chose to eliminate Silver in the creation of dimes and quarters. The new Half Dollar was made with a compromised Silver content. Silver was placed on the surface of the coin through a process where three metals strips were bonded, Copper being the innermost layer.

By the end of 1970, the Congress passed a bill wherein Kennedy Half Dollars will be created with the same metal composition as the dime and quarters since 1965. The new Silver Clad Kennedy Half Dollar Coins were minted for five years – from 1965-1970, where two copper and nickel layers were bonded with the pure copper as its inner core. By the year 1971, the Copper Nickel-Clad Kennedy Half Dollar surfaced. Despite all efforts, the commemorative half dollar remained hidden in the circulation.

When the nation’s Bicentennial date approached, a contest was held in 1973 wherein Huntington reigned victorious among other entries. By 1976, a special reverse design was made by Seth G. Huntington. The nation’s Bicentennial was celebrated with the halves that were minted from 1975-1976. The new reverse features the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, known as the birthplace of the United States. These Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollars bears the dates 1779-1976 and were minted in Copper-Nickel Clad and Silver-Clad coins. The Silver-Clad coins were struck in proof and uncirculated editions and were only sold to collectors for a premium amount.

The Kennedy Half Dollar Coins don’t have rare dates and mints combination, but there were still some that were distributed in limitation. Kennedy Half Dollar Proof coins were minted at the Denver Mint in 1964 and in San Francisco in 1968. By the year 1965 up until 1967, special mint sets were released. Denver minted Kennedy Half Dollars in 1970s only to appease the mind-set orders. These are known as the 1970-D.

The US Mint released an announcement that no 1987 Kennedy Half Dollar will be issued for circulation, which, in turn, resulted in a sudden increase of orders for mint-sets. Ever since 2002, the Mint only issued Half Dollars to fulfill the number of orders made by coin collectors.

In 2014, Copper-Nickel Clad (composed of 75% Copper and 25% Nickel), Silver as well as Gold Half dollar Coins were issued as a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar.

Detailed Specifications of the Kennedy Half Dollar

The Kennedy Half Dollar or the Kennedy Fifty Cent Piece were minted from 1964 up until today. This commemorative coin was minted in the US Mints located in Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco. These halves have a reeded edge (about 150 reeds, are 2.15 mm thick and has a diameter of 30.60.

There are two reverse designs and one for the obverse made for the Kennedy Half Dollar. The regular issues were designed by Gilroy Roberts on the obverse and Frank Gasparro for the reverse. As for the later version, the Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar reverse was designed by Seth G. Huntington.

The Obverse

US government, 2005-Half-Dollar-Obv, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

On the obverse, the portrait of President Kennedy can be seen on the center of the coin facing left. LIBERTY is seen above and to the sides of the portrait. Just below the portraits is the words IN GOD WE TRUST and the date below.

The Reverse (Regular Issue)

United States Mint, 2005 Half Dollar Rev Unc P, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

For the reverse of the regular issue, an Eagle with a shield on its breast has 13 arrows and an olive branch clutched by its claws. Above the eagle lies a ribbon with E PLURIBUS UNUM engraved on it, and stars, clouds and rays are also seen. A ring consisting of 50 stars surrounds the eagle. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is engraved just above and outside of the ring while the denomination HALF DOLLAR can be seen on the lowest portion of the reverse.

The Reverse (Bicentennial Issue)

Design by Seth Huntington, photo by RHM22, 1976HalfReverse, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 3.0

The reverse for the Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar features the front view of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On the top lies the word UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and on the bottom HALF DOLLAR is seen. 200 YEARS OF FREEDOM on the left of the Independence Hall and E PLURIBUS UNUM on the right side. Below the building the lies Independence Hall while thirteen stars are laid just above the HALF DOLLAR.

The Kennedy Half Dollar have different weights, composition, and mint mark locations.

Mint Mark location

1964 – on the reverse side of the coin, found on the left of the olive branch

1965-1967: no mint marks

1968-Date: on the obverse, above the date

 

Weight

1964 – Approximately 12.50 grams

1965-1970 – Approximately 11.50 g

1971-Date – Approximately 11.34 g

1976 Silver Collector Coins – Approximately 11.50 g

1992-Date Silver Proof – Approximately 12.50 g

Composition: 

Cupro-Nickel
8.33% Ni
Balance Cu

It is important to note that the Kennedy Half Dollar has many subtypes:

  1.    Silver
  2.    Silver Clad
  3.    Copper-Nickel Clad
  4.    Special Mint Sets – this set of coins have special strikes where the Mint used special dies. The devices or patterns used in the coin design were frosted and have mirrored fields.
  5.    1976 Bicentennial
  6.    Proof Silver
  7.    Proof Silver Clad
  8.    Proof Copper-Nickel-Clad
  9.    Proof Silver Matte Finish
  10.  50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Copper-Nickel Clad
  11.  50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver
  12.  50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold

Types of Kennedy Half Dollars

According to PCGS Coinfacts, the Kennedy Half Dollar has five types:

  1.    Type 1 Silver Kennedy Half Dollars

These were the very first Kennedy Half Dollar issued made from 90% Silver in 1964. In 1965, the Silver content was reduced from 90% down to 40%. The following are the Type 1 Silver Kennedy Half Dollars.

Regular Strikes:

  •    1964 
  •    1964-D
  •    1964-D Doubled Die Obverse
  •    1964-D 50C Quadrupled Die Obverse
  •    1964-D/D Repunched Mintmark

Proofs:

  •    1964
  •    1964 Accented Hair
  •    1992-S Silver
  •    1993-S Silver
  •    1994-S Silver
  •    1995-S Silver
  •    1996-S Silver
  •    1997-S Silver
  •    1998-S Silver
  •    1999-S Silver
  •    2000-S Silver
  •    2001-S Silver
  •    2002-S Silver
  •    2003-S Silver
  •    2004-S Silver
  •    2005-S Silver
  •    2006-S Silver
  •    2007-S Silver
  •    2008-S Silver
  •    2009-S Silver
  •    2010-S Silver
  •    2011-S Silver
  •    2012-S Silver, Limited Edition Proof Set
  •    2012-S Silver
  •    2013-S Silver, Limited Edition Proof Set
  •    2013-S Silver
  •    2014-S Silver

Special Strikes:

  •    1964 Special Mint Sets
  •    1998-S Special Mint Sets
  1.    Type 2 Silver Clad Kennedy Half Dollars

In 1965, the Silver content was reduced due to the rising price of Silver. As a result, the Kennedy Half Dollars are now Silver-Clad coins and are now composed of 40% Silver and 60% Copper. The Silver-Clad series ended in 1970 when the third type of the Kennedy Half Dollar was born. The following are the Type 2 Silver Clad Kennedy Half Dollars.

Regular Strikes:

  •    1965
  •    1966
  •    1967
  •    1968-D
  •    1969-D
  •    1970-D

Proofs:

  •    1968-S
  •    1969-S
  •    1970-S

Special Strikes

  •    1965 Special Mint Sets
  •    1966 Special Mint Sets
  •    1966 Special Mint Sets No “FG”
  •    1966 Special Mint Sets Doubled Die Obverse
  •    1967 Special Mint Sets
  1.    Type 3 Copper-Nickel Clad Kennedy Half Dollars

By the beginning of 1917, Silver was eradicated from all the Kennedy Half Dollars. It was replaced by Copper-Nickel Clad Alloy. Kennedy Half Dollars were still minted in low numbers causing the JFK Kennedy Dollar to be seldom seen by the public. This series can easily be collected in circulation strikes and proof sets. The following are the Type 3 Copper-Nickel Clad Kennedy Half Dollars.

Regular Strike

  •    1971
  •    1971-D
  •    1972
  •    1972-D
  •    1972-D No “FG”
  •    1973
  •    1973-D
  •    1974
  •    1974-D
  •    1974-D Doubled Die Obverse
  •    1977
  •    1977-D
  •    1978
  •    1978-D
  •    1979
  •    1979-D
  •    1980-P
  •    1980-D
  •    1981-P
  •    1981-D
  •    1982-P
  •    1982-D
  •    1983-P
  •    1983-D
  •    1984-P
  •    1984-D
  •    1985-P
  •    1985-D
  •    1986-P
  •    1986-D
  •    1987-P
  •    1987-D
  •    1988-P
  •    1988-D
  •    1989-P
  •    1989-D
  •    1990-P
  •    1990-D
  •    1991-P
  •    1991-D
  •    1992-P
  •    1992-D
  •    1993-P
  •    1993-D
  •    1994-P
  •    1994-D
  •    1995-P
  •    1995-D
  •    1996-P
  •    1996-D
  •    1997-P
  •    1997-D
  •    1998-P
  •    1998-D
  •    1999-P
  •    1999-D
  •    2000-P
  •    2000-D
  •    2001-P
  •    2001-D
  •    2002-P
  •    2002-D
  •    2003-P
  •    2003-D
  •    2004-P
  •    2004-D
  •    2005-P
  •    2005-D
  •    2006-P
  •    2006-D
  •    2007-P
  •    2007-D
  •    2008-P
  •    2008-D
  •    2009-P
  •    2009-D
  •    2010-P
  •    2010-D
  •    2011-P
  •    2011-D
  •    2012-D
  •    2012-P
  •    2013-P
  •    2013-D
  •    2014-P
  •    2014-D

Proofs

  •    1971-S
  •    1972-S
  •    1973-S
  •    1974-S
  •    1977-S
  •    1978-S
  •    1979-S Type 1
  •    1979-S Type 2
  •    1980-S
  •    1981-S Type 1
  •    1981-S Type 2
  •    1982-S
  •    1983-S
  •    1984-S
  •    1985-S
  •    1986-S
  •    1987-S
  •    1988-S
  •    1989-S
  •    1990-S
  •    1991-S
  •    1992-S
  •    1993-S
  •    1994-S
  •    1995-S
  •    1996-S
  •    1997-S
  •    1998-S
  •    1999-S
  •    2000-S
  •    2001-S
  •    2002-S
  •    2003-S
  •    2004-S
  •    2005-S
  •    2006-S
  •    2007-S
  •    2008-S
  •    2009-S
  •    2010-S
  •    2011-S
  •    2012-S
  •    2013-S
  •    2014-S
  •    2015-S

Special Strikes

  •    2005-P Satin Finish
  •    2005-D Satin Finish
  •    2006-P Satin Finish
  •    2006-D Satin Finish
  •    2007-P Satin Finish
  •    2007-D Satin Finish
  •    2008-P Satin Finish
  •    2008-D Satin Finish
  •    2009-P Satin Finish
  •    2009-D Satin Finish
  •    2010-P Satin Finish
  •    2010-D Satin Finish
  1.    Type 4 Bicentennial Reverse Kennedy Half Dollars

As a celebration of the 200 years of the United States’ Declaration of Independence in 1976, a Bicentennial coin was created. Dated 1776-1976, there are two type 4 Kennedy Half Dollars – one was composed of 75% Copper and 25% Nickel over a center made up of pure Copper. The other is made up of 80% Silver, 20% Copper for the outer layer, and 79% Copper and 21% Silver.

The following are the Type 4 Silver Kennedy Half Dollars.

Special Strikes:

  •    2014-P 50th Anniversary UNC Set – Clad
  •    2014-D 50th Anniversary UNC Set – Clad

The following are the Type 4 Copper-Nickel Clad Kennedy Half Dollars.

Regular Strikes:

  •    1976 Clad
  •    1976-D Clad

Proofs:

  •    1976-S Clad
  1.    Type 5 50th Anniversary 2014 Kennedy Half Dollars

As for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar, Gold, Silver, and Copper-Nickel Clad Coins were issued.

The following are the Type 5 2014 Copper-Nickel Clad Kennedy Half Dollars.

Special Strikes:

  •    2014-P 50th Anniversary UNC Set – Clad
  •    2014-D 50th Anniversary UNC Set – Clad

The following are the Type 5 2014 Silver Kennedy Half Dollars.

Regular Strike:

  •    2014-S 50th Anniversary Set, Silver, Enhanced Mint State
  •    2014-D 50th Anniversary Set, Silver

Proofs:

  • 2014-P 50th Anniversary Set, Silver
  • 2014-W 50th Anniversary Set, Silver, Reverse Proof

 

The Type 5 2014 Gold Kennedy Half Dollars is as follows:

  • Proof

2014-W JFK 50th Anniversary, Gold

Errors and Varieties of the Kennedy Half Dollars

As per record, Kennedy Half Dollars produced in Denver are more than 156 million, while over 273 million were minted at the Philadelphia Mint. Like any other coins minted, errors and varieties cannot be avoided, and most of the time, these are sought after by collectors, along with the series with low mintages. The following are some of the errors and varieties of the Kennedy Half Dollar.

1964 Accented Hair – the error in this Kennedy Half Dollar coin can be distinguished by the longer and thicker hair of President JFK just above the ear. Also, in the word LIBERTY, the lower left serif of the letter I seem to be missing.

1964 Proof and Circulation Strike Doubled Die – in the top of the words WE TRUST have a slight doubling. Also, the letter R, T, and Y also have slight doubling. In some cases, 1964-D coins also have this error

1968-S Proof Inverted Mint Mark – the error in this coin was made after workers at the San Francisco Mint punched the mintmark S upside down. This can be distinguished with the upper hook of S as it appears to be larger than the lower hook.

1974-D Doubled Die Obverse – in 1974, an error occurred in the Kennedy Half Dollar made at the Denver Mint. On the obverse side of the coin, the letters of the word TRUST have evident doubling.

1979-S Proof Filled S & Clear S – during 1979, the Mint had to replace the punch that used to create the mint mark S. when the hub was finally replaced, you get to see the difference – the mintmark for the San Francisco mint can now be clearly seen, instead of what used to look like a blob.

1981-S Proof Clear S & Flat S – by the year 1981, the hub needed another replacement. The new 1981-S had a flatter and less-pronounced mintmark S. The end of the hook of letter S is also more noticeable.

Collecting Kennedy Half Dollars

The commemorative coin of Kennedy Half Dollar is undeniably a famous coin on the very first issue up until today. The diversity of the fifty-cent coin makes it a popular coin among collectors, no matter if you’re just a beginner coin collector, intermediate or an expert one.

Most coin collectors who collect Kennedy Half Dollars by dates and mint mark sets of these coins that were meant for public commerce – often referred to as business strike coins.  If you’re just a beginner coin collector, you can start by purchasing a set of circulated Kennedy Half Dollars in rolls. Sadly, the US Mint has already stopped the production of business strike Kennedy Half Dollars in the year 2002. However, you can still buy some from coin dealers. The key dates you can collect in starting your collection would be 1964, 1964-D and the 1970-D.  The 1964 and 1964-D Kennedy Half Dollar price would depend on the Silver content of your coin.

For immediate coin collectors, they tend to add proof coins among the uncirculated JFK Half Dollars. For expert coin collectors, they tend to complete series – from the regular strikes, proofs up to special strikes coins and those with errors that one can buy through auctions and coin dealers. Key dates that expert collectors would want to have are the 1995-S Silver Proof as well as the 1998-S Silver Matte Finish Proof.

One can purchase Kennedy Half Dollars starting at $1.00 for the common varieties and up to $22,000.00  for the 1964-D. For a price guide courtesy of PCGS, you can use this link.

 

References:

PCGS, PCGS CoinFacts, NGCCoin, Coin Trackers, United States Mint, The Spruce