U.S. Coin Price Guide

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  Kennedy Half Dollar
(1964 to Date)
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Following the death of President Kennedy in 1963 there was considerable public sentiment for honoring his memory on coinage. As all coins except the half dollar already carried portraits of presidents, it was decided to install his likeness on this coin, even though its design had been changed as recently as 1948.

The portrait was designed by Gilroy Roberts and Frank Gasparro, the reverse featuring a shield eagle surrounded by stars. As introduced in 1964, the coin was of regular silver composition (90% silver, 10% copper, .36169 ounces of silver by weight) but was altered in 1965 to the clad standard, consisting of a 21% silver/79% copper interior covered with 80% silver/20% copper total weight being .14792 ounces. Its weight was 11.5 grams, down from 12.5. In 1971 the silver was removed from its core and a new composition used for the exterior, comprising three parts copper to one of nickel. The silver had been entirely replaced and the weight fell to 11.34 grams. It has a diameter of 30.6mm.
The only alteration in design occurred in 1976 when a figure of Independence Hall in Philadelphia was added to the reverse, supplanting the eagle, as part of the Bicentennial program. On the obverse the date appears as 1776-1976. In the following years the normal reverse was readopted. The obverse design was unchanged except for the dual date while the reverse was entirely new. All halves minted in these two years are dated "1776-1976" therefore no halves ever bore the date 1975! The regular design was resumed in 1977 and continues to the present.

This has been termed a difficult coin on which to find the mint mark. As first issued, it may be observed on the reverse, above the L and F in the word half. In 1968 it was brought to the obverse, beneath the portrait and above the date.

The Kennedy half dollar replaced the Franklin half dollar within three months of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (nine years before the half-dollar would have otherwise been eligible for change). In fact, Gilroy Roberts, the former chief engraver of the mint, and Frank Gasparro, the current chief engraver at the time, designed the coin a mere five days after Kennedy's death—though the profile of Kennedy was the same one Roberts had used for Kennedy's inaugural medal two years earlier.

Ironically, the new Kennedy design caused the slow disappearance of the half-dollar as a regular mainstream circulating coin, through a series of unrelated events. First, collectors and even ordinary citizens hoarded the coins of 1964, due to the "new" design and because of sentiment for the late President Kennedy. In 1965 Lyndon Baines Johnson took the United States of America off the silver standard. Also, silver was no longer included in newly-minted dimes and quarters (which became copper-nickel clad), but remained in the half-dollar (but reduced from 90% to 40%). The older Franklin halves of 90% silver were quickly removed from circulation by collectors and hoarders, and since the public now hoarded silver coins, most of the 90% silver 1964s, as well as the 40% silver 1965-1970 halves, saw little circulation as well. By the time the Kennedy half dollar became regular copper-nickel clad in 1971, many banks and merchants were already used to no longer stocking and using the denomination as they were prior to 1964. The half dollar has always circulated to some extent, but has not at the level of circulation it had before 1964. Given the facts that the cash drawers of most merchants do not contain a place for quantities of half dollars, that most vending machines do not accept them, and that the dollar coin is smaller and is the subject of a push for acceptance, the half is likely to retain its limited circulation status.

When the 1964 proof coins were first minted, the "I" in "LIBERTY" had a truncated lower-left serif, and the hair above Kennedy’s ear was heavily incised. After approximately 120,000 coins were produced, the dies were revised and the hair smoothed slightly. Jacqueline Kennedy was thought to have disliked the earlier, "accented hair" version (as it came to be known), although the lower relief design might have also have been introduced to facilitate production.[1] Coins produced from the first die typically sell for about four times those from the later version. However, since a substantial number of the earlier coins seem to have been poorly struck, top quality specimens can fetch even higher prices.

After the 1964 coin's introduction (around the height of the cold war), the Denver Mint received a number of complaints that the base of Kennedy’s neck bore the hammer and sickle symbol. However, closer examination will reveal that the mark is actually a script form of the initials "GR": Gilroy Roberts’ monogram.[2]

In 1975 and 1976, the bicentennial half dollar was minted showing Independence Hall on the reverse. All of the bicentennial halves are dated "1776–1976." While the special half sparked some interest in the public, when the half returned to its regular design in 1977, it continued its decline in use and mintage. In some years the coins have not been released for normal circulation, but only in special mint rolls, mint sets, and proof sets for collectors (1970, 1987, 2001 {P only, D Was issued for circulation}, 2002 - 2004, 2006 - 2009). [3] This is due to the mint & Federal Reserve having a large stockpile inventory of previous years halves, still available for bank & commercial demand, probably in part due to U.S. casinos switching over to "coinless" slot machines & casino half-dollar chips, which were the last big commercial demand for half-dollars. As this stockpile dwindles down, new halves are again released for regular circulation, as is also occasionally done for US Dollar coins and United States two-dollar bills.

There is still some demand left for half dollars for use at casinos, where they can be used in paying off odd-dollar bets in blackjack and other games. For example, if a player gets "blackjack" at that game with a five-dollar bet, he or she is to be paid $7.50. Some casinos now use a fifty-cent casino chip. Half-dollars also see use in large venue cash-only retail transactions, such as stadium concession purchases where dollar amounts are rounded to dollars and half-dollars.


In 1964, the mint mark appeared on the reverse, under the eagle's right talon. Starting in 1968, mint marks appear above the second and third numbers in the date under Kennedy's neck. Mint marks as of 2007 include:

Blank (Philadelphia Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 1964–1979
P (Philadelphia Mint, 1980—
D (Denver Mint in Denver, Colorado)
S (San Francisco Mint in San Francisco, California)
All San Francisco Kennedy halves are proofs, except for those minted for the 40% silver Bicentennial uncirculated sets. Proof coins were minted at Philadelphia in 1964, but all other proofs were minted at San Francisco.

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