Although the Kennedy Half Dollar is a beautiful coin, it is the result of one of the most tragic deaths in American history. We are, of course, talking about President John F. Kennedy. Not only was John F. Kennedy a loved President but also an extremely admired man with great charisma, which explains why the whole world fell silent in reaction to his assassination in 1963. Even today, the nation still mourns the determined leader who symbolized hope and progress.
On the obverse of the Kennedy Half Dollar is a left-facing profile of President John F. Kennedy. The portrait is life-like and incredibly detailed, from Kennedy’s hair to his wonderful smile. He is accompanied by the mintage year, as well as the inscriptions LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST.
The reverse displays a modified presidential seal, with an eagle behind a shield holding an olive branch in one talon and 13 arrows in the other. Above the eagle are rays of sunshine, clouds and stars, along with a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. The entire image is encircled by 50 stars and surrounded by the engravings UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR.
Just hours after President Kennedy’s death, United States Mint director, Eva Adams called her chief engraver, Gilroy Roberts to tell him about her idea of depicting John F. Kennedy on a coin. Adams was thinking of replacing the previous design of either the Silver Dollar, Half Dollar or Quarter Dollar. A few days later, Adams called Roberts again, informing him that the Half Dollar had been chosen.
The decision to use the Half Dollar came from a conversation between Adams and John F. Kenney’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy was against replacing George Washington’s profile on the Quarter Dollar and suggested the late president be depicted on the Half Dollar. Adams and Mrs. Kennedy also agreed that the obverse and reverse designs on the Mint list medal for President Kennedy should be used on the coin.
Roberts had designed the obverse for the Kennedy medal, and Frank Gasparro had created the reverse, both of which had originally been approved by John F. Kennedy. With Adam’s say so, the two men began modifying their designs. However, the Mint still needed to get approval from Congress to replace the Franklin Half Dollar with the Kennedy Half Dollar. By law, no coin design could be changed if it hadn’t been produced for a minimum of 25 years. The Franklin Half Dollar had only been minted for 15 years. Aware of the immense grief that was gripping the nation, Congress quickly passed the Act of December 30, 1963 to allow striking of the Kennedy Half Dollar.
Both Roberts and Gasparro moved fast at reworking their Kennedy medal designs for the Kennedy Half Dollar and sent trial strikes to Adams on December 13. Jacqueline Kennedy and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (JFK’s brother) viewed the new designs and suggested a few changes. After further modifications, Roberts coined additional strikes and sent them to Treasury Secretary, Douglas Dillon for approval. Dillon was satisfied that the latest changes to the coin had been carried out as Mrs. Kennedy and her brother in law intended.
On March 24, 1964, 70,000 Kennedy Half Dollars were released to the public and quickly became sought after by just about everyone in the nation. Even though the department limited sales to only 40 Kennedy Half Dollars per person, the coins sold out. This trend continued, and the banks simply couldn’t keep up with demand. Unsurprisingly, very few Kennedy Half Dollars circulated because people were hoarding their coins, describing them as keepsakes. Silver prices were also rising at the time, another reason why so many people were holding onto their 90% silver Kennedy Half Dollars. The coins were in demand overseas as well, and the U.S. Mint had struck around 160 million pieces by late November.
In 1965, Congress decided to eliminate silver from the Dime and Quarter, and reduce the Half Dollar’s silver content to 40%. This means that the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars are the last 90% silver Half Dollar Coins ever struck by the United States Mint. Despite reducing the silver content in the coins, Kennedy Half Dollars were still being hoarded and failed to circulate. In 1970, President Nixon signed a bill that eliminated the remaining 40% silver from Half Dollars.
Kennedy Half Dollars were produced at the mint facilities in Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver (D) and San Francisco (S). No Kennedy Half Dollars were issued for circulation in 1987. Proofs were struck each year, with the exception of 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Kennedy Half Dollars are true commemorative pieces of currency that celebrate the life of one of America’s most treasured presidents, the one and only John F. Kennedy. Often sold in bags or rolls, these coins are considered must-have pieces for any collection and will make valuable additions to any investment portfolio.
Just remember, the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar is the only circulated coin from the series that contains 90% silver. You also need to be aware that Kennedy Half Dollars were no longer produced for general circulation as of 2002, but the United States Mint has been striking 90% silver proof sets for collectors since 1992.
For more information about purchasing Kennedy Half Dollars, please don’t hesitate to contact Capital Gold Group. Our professional team of experts can be reached via phone, email or our online message form. We look forward to hearing from you.