Kennedy half dollar
The Kennedy half dollar, first minted in 1964, is a fifty-cent coin currently issued by the United States Mint. Intended as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, it was authorized by Congress just over a month after his death. Use of existing works by Mint sculptors Gilroy Roberts and Frank Gasparro allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and striking of the new coins began in January 1964.
The silver coins vanished from circulation upon their release in March 1964 due to collectors, hoarders, and those interested in a memento of the late president. Although the Mint greatly increased production, the denomination was seldom seen in circulation. Continued rises in the price of silver increased the hoarding—many early Kennedy half dollars have been melted for their silver. Starting with 1965-dated pieces, the percentage of fine silver was reduced from 90% to 40% (silver clad), but even with this change the coin saw little circulation.
In 1971, silver was eliminated entirely from the coins. A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. Even though ample supplies of half dollars are now available, their circulation is extremely limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been struck to satisfy the demand from collectors, and are available at a premium through the Mint.
Kennedy half dollars are quite common and can still be obtained from some banks. Circulated coins minted from 1964 to 1970 derive most of their value from their silver content. From 1965 to 1970 the silver content was reduced from 90% (in 1964 dated coins) to 40%. Beginning with the 1971 issue, all Kennedy half dollars made for circulation contain a mixture of copper and nickel and contain no silver.
Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties
While there are some Kennedy half minor varieties , there are no issues that are exceedingly rare or expensive. The mint made special collector coins from 1965 to 1967, and again beginning in 1992 and are quite affordable for any collector's budget. In 1976 (coins dated 1776-1976), the mint issued a special circulating commemorative coin for the bicentennial of the United States. These were made by the billions and carry no premium value.
Kennedy half dollars were produced at three different mints: Philadelphia (no mint mark or P), Denver (D) and San Francisco (S). As illustrated in the pictures below, the mint mark is located on the reverse of the 1964 coin located on the left-hand side just below the eagle's claw. From 1968 until today, the mint mark is located on the obverse of the coin just below the point of Kennedy's bust and above the date. From 1965 to 1967 all U.S. coins did not carry a mint mark.