The Kennedy half dollar was first minted in 1964 to commemorate President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963. The half dollar has a rich history beginning in 1794. From 1794 to 1947, half-dollars were made of silver and decorated with an allegorical image that symbolized liberty on the obverse. In 1948, Benjamin Franklin’s likeness was placed on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse, giving rise to the Benjamin Franklin silver half dollar. During the bicentennial years 1975 and 1976, the reverse featured an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
To honor the 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy half dollar was authorized by Congress just a month after his death on November 22, 1963. The first silver Kennedy half dollars went out to circulation in 1964 and were immediately popular among collectors and the general public. It was so popular, the coin immediately began to be hoarded, nobody wanted to sell their silver. Despite all the composition changes over the decades, the Kennedy half dollar is still a fan favorite among collectors and investors.
The 1964 Kennedy half dollar is the only year in the series where the composition is made up of 90 percent silver. The 1965-1970 Kennedy half dollars only contained 40 percent of silver. In 1971, silver was eliminated entirely from the half dollar. Though production increased, the clad coin saw only a moderate increase in usage; by the end of the decade the half had gradually become uncommon in circulation. A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. In 2014, a special 50th anniversary edition of the Kennedy half dollar was also struck in 99.99% gold.
Kennedy Silver Proof Half Dollars
While the 1964 silver Kennedy half dollar is the only 90 percent silver coin released for circulation, you can find Kennedy silver proof half dollars that contain 90 percent silver. These 90 percent silver proof Kennedy half dollars are minted in San Francisco, so they bear a “S” mint mark.
Rare Kennedy Silver Half Dollars
There’s a number of different Kennedy half dollars that are considered to be rare.
- In 1998, the Kennedy half dollar received a special “matte finish” and was issued as part of the two-coin “Kennedy Collectors Set.” It was paired with a commemorative silver dollar honoring Robert F. Kennedy. The mintage for this coin is estimated to be 62,000 and 64,000 for the 1998-S matte finish coin. As of 2023, this is still the lowest mintage of the series.
- In 2014, a gold Kennedy half dollar was released that contained 99.99 percent gold. It bears the “W” mint mark. Just over 69,000 coins were produced.
- Also in 2014, a 90 percent reverse proof silver Kennedy half dollar was produced with the “W” mint mark. 218,783 total were minted.
- In 2019, the U.S. mint produced a Kennedy silver dollar that contains 99.99 percent silver. Around 412,000 were minted with the “S” mint mark. In 2020 and 2021, they also produced 99.99 percent silver Kennedy half dollars.