Kennedy Half 1964 was the only year that the Kennedy Half Dollar was minted with 90% silver. The coins were reduced to 40% silver from 1965 to 1970. Then from 1971 to the present, silver was eliminated and only used in special proof and mint sets.

Kennedy Half Dollar

The Kennedy Half Dollar is one of the most collected U.S. coins of all time. It's first year of production broke all previous mintage records for a half dollar, and subsequent mintage years have remained relatively high making the Kennedy Half Dollars a very affordable set to collect.

History of The Kennedy Half Dollar
The origins of the Kennedy Half Dollar dates back to the first few days after President Kennedy's assassination, when the mint director authorized a project to honor Kennedy on a U.S. coin. Jacqueline Kennedy desired to have the president depicted on the half dollar, and the goal was to begin production of the new Kennedy Half Dollar on the first day of 1964. This did not leave much time to for design and production setup, and so it was decided to leverage the existing Kennedy Inauguration medal. The mint Chief Engraver, Gilroy Roberts, designed the obverse of the medal, and he worked to modify it for the half dollar. Frand Gasparro, who had previously redesigned the reverse of the lincoln cent in 1959, was the designer of the medal's reverse; and as such was tasked with revising it for the new half dollar.

Since the new half dollar would replace the Franklin Half Dollar, which was introduced less than 25 years ago, congressional approval was required. There was tremendous support for the coin in Congress and from President Johnson, so the mint continued their preparations in anticipation of imminent approval. Congress finally authorized the Kennedy Half Dollar on December 30, 1963. The mint produced proof coins in early January, and coins for circulation by January 30th.

The mint anticipate a large demand for this new half dollar, and ramped up its mintage numbers. Soon demand was outstripping supply, and it produced even more. The extraordinary demand was caused by two factors. The first was the sheer popularity of the new half dollar. With the tragic assassination fresh on the minds of the public, it seemed like everyone wanted to hold the new Kennedy Half Dollar, and people lined up to get one. The second factor was rising silver prices that lead to hoarding, which in turn drove up silver prices further, which resulted in more hoarding. Soon all coins were being hoarded, leading to record production for all other coins in 1964 including the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.

Silver Content of The Kennedy Half Dollar
It is possible that this early demand for the new half dollar was the spark that ignited the silver bubble by putting an initial strain on silver reserves. But no matter the cause, the mint was struggling to keep up with demand, and in order to keeps coins in circulation and mitigate the effects of hoarding, authorization was given to continue minting 1964 coins into 1965.

By mid-1965, with silver prices soaring and coins being hoarded from circulation, the decision was made to eliminate silver from the dime and quarter; and reducing the amount of silver in the half dollar from 90% to 40%. This 40% silver alloy was used in the half dollar from 1965 to 1970. But the 1970 coins were issued only in proof and mint sets, and not released for general circulation. As a result, these 1970 mintage half dollars sell for a slight premium. With a mintage of over 5 million coins (the combined production of both San Francisco and Denver mints), they are not rare, but they are far less common as compared to those produced in previous years.

From 1971 to present day, the circulating Kennedy Half Dollars are composed of nickel and copper. Silver was reintroduced briefly at a 40% level for special bicentennial coin sets in 1976. It was again introduced in 1992 to present at a 90% level for silver proof sets.

How can you tell which mint your coin came from?
Kennedy Half Dollars minted in Denver have a D mint mark, and Kennedy Half Dollar minted in San Francisco have an S mint mark. Coins minted in Philadelphia prior to 1980 don't have a mint mark, but starting in 1980, Kennedy Half Dollars minted in Philadelphia have a P mint mark. The mint mark for the Kennedy Half Dollars have always been located above the date.

Most Expensive Kennedy Half Dollar
Because mintage levels were consistently high each year, there are no rare years for the Kennedy Half Dollar. The only truly rare Kennedy Half is the 1998 Matte Proof that was sold in a set with the Robert F Kennedy Commemorative Silver Dollar. Only 62,000 of these Matte Proof coins were minted. Also as mentioned above, the 1970 coins were only issued in proof and mint sets, so they are not found in circulation. However approximately 2 million of these 40% silver coins were produced at each mint, and thus there is plenty of dealer inventory so that they can be purchased for a modest price. It is also worth noting that recent Kennedy Half Dollars from 2002 to the present have similar low mintages because they are no longer placed into circulation. They were sold directly to the public by the roll, and in proof and mint sets.

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Kennedy Inauguration Medal This is the John F. Kennedy Presidential Inauguration Medal which served as the basis for the design of the Kennedy Half Dollar. The obverse bust is nearly identical to that of the half dollar. The eagle on the reverse was enlarged.

Kennedy Half Silver Content Kennedy Half Dollars produced for circulation from 1965 to 1969 contained only 40% silver. The half dollars produced in 1970 also contained 40% silver, but they were only issued in mint and proof sets.

Kennedy Half Dollar Bicentenial The 1976 Bicentennial half dollar was minted in both 1975 and 1976.

Kennedy Half Dollar Bicentenial Proof This bicentenial half dollar was minted in 40% silver as part of a special proof set.

Kennedy Half Matte Proof The rarest of the Kennedy half series is the 1998 matte proof. Only 62,000 were minted.