Kennedy Half Dollar’s Story in Short
The US Mint’s goal of producing Kennedy Half Dollars initiated in January 1964 with a very condensed timeline. Coining of the first Kennedy Half Dollar Proofs commenced immediately thereafter. Production of regular business strikes began at the Denver Mint on January 30. The following week, the Philadelphia Mint started regular half dollar coinage.
Highly publicized ceremonies were held on February 11, 1964 at both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints, to commemorate striking of the new half dollars. The prevailing sentiment surrounding the occasion was that the coin was both an enduring memorial and an expression of sorrow for the sudden loss of President John Kennedy.
By March, tens of millions of Kennedy Half Dollars were being distributed, but that wasn’t enough to meet worldwide demand. No United States coin has ever been more greatly hoarded than the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar, as nearly every example released was set aside as a cherished memento in the emotional aftermath of November 22, 1963. In all, about 430 million of the 1964 half dollars were issued (more than half of these were actually struck in 1965 and 1966), many of which never saw the light of day.
In response to increased coinage needs and looming silver shortages, the dime and quarter were composed of a cupronickel clad alloy, beginning in 1965. Seemingly overnight, coins containing 90% silver disappeared from view. The silver content of Kennedy Half Dollars was not completely eliminated but was reduced to 40%, to partially appease silver mining states. The 40% silver alloy was utilized 1965 through 1970. From 1971 to the present, Kennedy Half Dollars intended for general circulation have been made of the cupronickel clad alloy.
The United States observed its 200th birthday in 1976. The reverse of the quarter, half dollar, and dollar coin were replaced by bicentennial themes in 1975 and 1976, in keeping with the nation’s celebratory mood.
Kennedy Half Dollars have never circulated to the extent of its half dollar type predecessors. The explanations for this are varied, but the most logical argument is that for several years following its release, the Kennedy Half Dollar was venerated as a souvenir and not meant to be spent. Under this mindset, the half dollar vanished from everyday pocket change as the American public simply got out of the habit of using the coin. Some merchants today react as if they don’t know what to do if handed a Kennedy Half Dollar.
There really are not any Kennedy Half Dollars that can be classified as key dates, per se. This is not to say there are not valuable coins belonging to this series, however. Some MS-70DC examples, which, by definition are perfectly preserved and complemented by a Deep Cameo luster, have risen astronomically over time. Leading the way are the 1968-S, 1973-S, 1974-S, and 1776-1976-S (40% silver type). All of them are worth at least $3000 each. Other MS-70DC Kennedy’s that have done well include the 1988-S, 1996-S clad, 1999-S clad, and 2000-S clad. This is just a partial listing, but there are a few more.