Kennedy Half Dollar

Posted by on January 10, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Kennedy (1964) 12.5 90% silver, 10% copper
Kennedy (1965-1970, 1976-S) 11.5 40% silver, 60% copper
1964 Kennedy half dollar

1964 Kennedy half dollar

The silver Kennedy Half Dollar came about shortly after the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy, on November 22nd, 1963, the United States’ Congress authorized putting his portrait on the half dollar on December 30th, 1963.  The United States mint was already well on the way.  Miss Eva Adams, the Director of the had called the Mint’s Chef Engraver, Gilroy Roberts, on November 22nd to inform him that John F. Kennedy’s portrait was going to be on either the quarter, half, or one dollar coin.  Miss Adams called back on November 27th and told Roberts that it had been decided that the half-dollar had been selected.

The United States’ half dollar coins are the second most consistently minted US coins.  The penny is the only coin that continually is minted.  The dollar coin is the most inconsistent of the current coins being minted (I just heard the other day that the current One Dollar Coin will not be minted in 2012).  Mrs. Kennedy had told Adams that she didn’t want Washington replaced.  Similarly, decades later, when members of Congress thought to replace Kennedy’s portrait with Ronald Reagan’s, Nancy Reagan said that she didn’t want Kennedy’s portrait replaced and the matter has been dropped.

The memorial John F. Kennedy Half Dollar, with Gilroy Robert’s JFK portrait, has been minted for circulation since 1964.  The only variation in design was with the reverse.  Frank Gasparro’s, the Mint’s Chef Engraver’s Assistant in 1964, version of the US Presidential Seal has appeared consistently except for the United States’ of America’s bicentennial when in 1975 and 1976 strikes had Seth Huntington’s design featuring Independence Hall as the reverse.  Use of the half dollar has dropped and in 2002 the mint has only had need to strike the JFK half dollar for its mint sets which can be purchased directly from the mint.

The obverse has the adapted portrait of John F. Kennedy facing left.  This was adopted from Gilroy Robert’s JFK’s medal from the Presidential series.  Jacqueline Kennedy had asked for the hair to be modified.  The collar was also removed in the adaption for the coin.  The Moto is subdivided by JFK’s neck and is the lower portion of the coin “IN GOD” and continued “WE TRUST”.  The date encircles the coin’s rim underneath and “LIBERTY” encircles the top portion.  The mint marks are included under JKF’s neck line and above the date.  Philadelphia mint has no mark, although recently “P” is being used.  Denver is “D”, San Francisco with its “S”.

The reverse has Frank Gasparro’s modified presidential seal.  The herald Bald Eagle with the National Shield: the Eagle grasps the olive branch in its right talon, thirteen arrows in its left, it face left with a ribbon flowing from its beak.  The ribbon reads “E PLURIBUS UNIM”.  There are an addition of rods stars and clouds above the eagle and all is entirely encircled with a tight ring of stars.  Beyond this the lower rim is encircled with “. HALF DOLLAR .”, and the upper rim completes the circle with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.

Because for great fluctuations in silver prices, starting with the sharp rise in 1964, three distinct metal alloy compositions have been employed with the Kennedy Half Dollar.

In 1964 the John F. Kennedy silver half dollar was of the old standard.  The 1964 composition is 90% silver and 10% copper.  These weigh 12.5g and are 31mm in diameter with a reeded edge.  All later half dollars are 31mm across with a reeded edge, however the difference of alloy (which effects their density) causes differences in weight.  273,304,004 business strikes came out of Philadelphia (with no mint mark) which also produced all of the 3,950,762 Proof coins.  156,205,446 were minted in Denver.

Even though over 400 million business strikes of the 1964 silver Kennedy Half Dollar were released almost none ever made it into circulation.  Hoarding was at an all time high and silver prices had risen sharply.  1965 marked a sharp turn in United States’ silver currency.  Congress reacted by passing a Coinage Act and the 1965 half dollars’ silver content was reduced from 90% to 40%.  Its silver appearance was maintained by using a silver cladding made of 80% silver and 20% copper.  This silver cladding went on top of a core consisting only 21% silver and 79% copper.  This dropped the coins weight to 11.5g.  These Silver Clad JFK Half Dollars where used from 1965 through 1970.

Hoarding had continued even with the significant drop of silver content.  The silver currency all came to a head in 1969 when in May of that year the US Treasury tried to get the silver content of the half dollar eliminated. The US Treasury proposed that the nickel/copper clad combination that had already been adapted for the dime and quarter in 1964.

The former president Dwight Eisenhower had passed away on March 28th, 1969 and tensions over a base medal being used in the dollar coin that was being prepared to memorialize Ike was great.  The 1970 half dollar was only used for mint issue collectors’ sets.  San Francisco struck Proof coins only and the small production from the Denver mint was used for the ‘uncirculated’ mint sets.  Philadelphia did not strike any for 1970.

In 1971 the nickel clad half dollars were released (as were the Ike dollars).  The half dollars have a clad composition of 25% nickel and 75% copper this covers a core of 100% copper.  Silver clad half dollars had been struck exclusively for collectors by the Mint for their Proof and Uncirculated sets (as well as for the Ike dollars).  The US Mint has more recently issued Mint sets with the old 90% silver to 10% copper alloy, not just the half dollar but also the dimes and quarters will have this composition in these Proof and Uncirculated sets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.