The Kennedy half dollar was minted by the United States for the first time in 1964 and is a very popular coin historically and now, in the present day. It is still in circulation today, however, the coins produced between 1964 and 1970 are especially popular because they are harder to find as they were often melted down for silver content. This fifty-cent coin is a memorial to John F. Kennedy, affectionately known as “JFK,” the 35th president of the United States and one of only four US presidents to be killed by assasination. (The others are Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield and William McKinely.) The Kennedy dollar was authorized by Congress only a month after he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald.
When the silver coins were released in March of 1964, coin collectors and fans of the late president scrambled to acquire as many coins as they could. In fact, some say the coins were hoarded upon release. As a result of their popularity the Mint increased production but to no avail, the coins were being bought up but were not reaching circulation. The coin was incredibly popular and thus, upon every minting the coin would sell quickly.
Another factor that contributed to the coin being hoarded was the fact that silver prices were on the rise during the coin’s earliest years. Many of the early coins were melted down for their silver content this is why they left circulation. Because the earliest coins were often melted down for their silver content, they’ve become incredibly popular with collectors.
By 1971, the Mint decided to take out any silver in the coin, to try and stop the coin from leaving circulation. In celebration of the United States Bicentennial, in 1975 and 1976, a special Kennedy coin was produced. The Bicentennials were silver clad or silver proof. Then, in 2014, the Mint released a special 50th anniversary edition of the Kennedy, which was also struck in 99.99% gold.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Americans united to mourn the fallen president. Within hours, Eva Adams, the then-Director of the US Mint got Chief Engraver, Gilroy Roberts, on the phone to say that the mint would be honoring Kennedy by putting his face on a large silver coin. At the time they didn’t know if it would be the silver dollar, the half dollar, or the quarter dollar. On November 27, just five days after Kennedy was killed, Adams called Roberts to officially authorize the project. Just prior to calling Roberts, Adams had Jacqueline Kennedy, president Kennedy’s widow, on the phone. Jacqueline Kennedy said she preferred her late husband to be on the half dollar, and thus the Kennedy Half Dollar was born. On the previous design was an image of Benjamin Franklin. It’s said that Jacqueline Kennedy didn’t want her late husband to replace the image of America’s first president, George Washington, who is featured on the quarter.
President Kennedy’s vice became President upon his assasination. The new President, Lyndon Johnson, was in favor of Kennedy’s presence on the half dollar. In fact, he asked for congress to pass the legislation quickly. Because of President Johnson’s swift action, the Kennedy half dollar was first struck in early 1964. The first Kennedy half dollars that were meant for circulation were produced at the Denver Mint on the 30th of January in 1964. The following week, in early February of 1964, the Philadelphia Mint produced the coins. A ceremonial first strike was done at both Mints on February 11, 1964.
On the coin’s reverse is a design by Frank Gasparro, which was deeply influenced by the design he did for the President JFK appreciation medal, in 1962. The story behind the appreciation medal is quite interesting. In anticipation of his June 23, 1963 to July 2, 1963 trip to Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy and Vatican City, Kennedy had 300 medals created. On his trip to Germany, Kennedy was due to visit West Berlin. It was an interesting time in history and Kennedy was able to give out his medals in front of audiences of adoring spectators across the world.
Yes. The coins can be bought or sold. Some years are more popular than others, which is why it’s important to work with a broker that understands these coins and their value.
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