The origin of the Kennedy half dollar is rather interesting. It all started back in 1963, not long after the president was assassinated.
“From Dallas, Texas, a flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m., Central Standard Time, two o’clock Eastern Standard Time.” That was the news coverage by CBS News on the 22nd of November 1963.
Just a few hours after the president’s assassination, Eva Adams from the U.S. Mint contacted Gilroy Roberts, the Chief Engraver, telling him that they’re planning to engrave Kennedy’s face on one of the silver coins.
Five days later, Eva Adams told Gilroy Roberts that she authorized the minting of the Kennedy coin. Interestingly, she told him that the president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, would prefer if they depicted her late husband on a half dollar coin.
They gave her the option to choose either the silver dollar, half dollar, or a quarter dollar. Jackie chose the half dollar because, as she stated, she didn’t want to replace George Washington on the quarter.
The History of the Kennedy Half Dollar
The U.S. Mint started producing the new coins in January 1964, approximately a month and a half after the assassination. The main purpose of this coin was, of course, to commemorate the late president. However, the authorities and people from the U.S. Mint also hoped to see the coin in circulation.
After the U.S. Mint released the coins in March 1964, collectors and those who were mourning the late president hoarded most of them. Despite the increase in production, authorities rarely saw the coins in use.
The high value of silver was one of the main reasons people hoarded the early Kennedy half dollar coins. They melted them in order to get silver. Then, in 1965, manufacturers reduced the fine silver content from 90% to 40%. However, that strategy was to no avail, since people still didn’t use the coin.
The Popularity of the Kennedy Half Dollar
Kennedy was a popular president, and people in America loved him, so his death came as a shock to most citizens. They all wanted to have something to remember him by. The Kennedy half dollar was the perfect memento, so naturally, the demand for the coin was high.
The U.S. Mint tried to meet it by producing a staggering number of these coins. The Treasury first planned to issue 91 million half dollars back in 1964, but it ended up producing 141 million.
By late November, one year after the assassination, the Mint had produced 160 million Kennedy coins. Still, people didn’t use them. Everyone wanted them for their private collection, and this just goes to show how much the citizens of the United States loved Kennedy.
The Treasury continued to strike 1964-dated half dollars throughout 1965. It produced almost 430 million of these coins.
Other Strikings of the Kennedy Half Dollar
Back in 1971, the U.S. Mint completely removed silver from the coins, which led to an increase in production. Still, people didn’t use the coin as much as the Mint and Treasury had hoped.
The Mint struck a special design for the United States Bicentennial back in 1975 and 1976. In 1992, it issued sets where the coins were struck in 90% silver. More recently, in 2014, the Mint produced a very limited set of Kennedy half dollar coins. It struck them in 99.99% gold.
The Value of the Kennedy Half Dollar Coins
As you’ve probably noticed, the amount of silver in the Kennedy half dollar coins depends on the year of their manufacture. Therefore, as stated before, 90% of the 1964 coin is silver. The other 10% is copper.
These coins have 0.3617 troy ounces of silver. However, when it comes to the coins the U.S. Mint made between 1965 and 1970, the silver content is reduced to 40%. That makes them less valuable.
At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that the Kennedy half dollar represents one of the most beautiful mementos of the man who tried to change the world for the better, John F. Kennedy.
However, if you are a coin collector and you believe this coin belongs in your collection, you should definitely try to acquire the 1964 one, or the one from the limited edition issued in 2014. Those two coins are definitely the most valuable.