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Collecting Kennedy Silver Half Dollars

Updated on August 14, 2013

Collecting Silver Half Dollars

Kennedy Silver Half Dollars

Kennedy silver half dollars were a historically important disruption in the production of the Franklin half dollar, which was scheduled to be minted for another nine years. Kennedy silver half dollars replaced the Franklin half dollars, three months after the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. News of the death was so heartfelt that Frank Gasparro, who was the Chief Engraver, along with the previous Chief Engraver, Gilroy Roberts, designed the Kennedy silver half dollars within five days of the president's death.

The new Kennedy silver half dollars caused quite a disappearance in circulation as people across the nation began hoarding them, primarily for sentimental value. In 1965, the United States was removed from the silver standard and dimes and quarters were now being produced as copper-nickel clad.

The half dollars that were previously 90 percent silver, dropped down to 40 percent silver and caused and even higher elevation in collection as there was rumor that all of the silver would soon be eliminated from them as well.

When Kennedy silver half dollars transitioned to copper-nickel clad in 1971, a good amount of merchants and banks were not even stocking this denomination as they were once before when they were first released. The Kennedy silver half dollars do remain circulated to some extent but few merchants or consumers have a need for them so they seem to be shunned in the business world. Of course, for collectors, this is good news.


The Kennedy silver half dollars have gone through a few notable changes since they were first conceived. The obverse displays a left-sided profile of President John F. Kennedy with the word LIBERTY in an arc surrounding the upper half of the coin. IN GOD WE TRUST is directly below the president and then the date is centered on the bottom. The reverse of the Kennedy silver half dollars bears the president's seal with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA hugging the top arc and HALF DOLLAR in the bottom of the coin.

The 1964 proof of the Kennedy silver half dollars displayed the “I” in the word LIBERTY as lower-left serif and there was a heavily incised hair marking above the president's ear. It is suggested that Jacqueline Kennedy did not approve of the accented hair and after only 120,000 coins were produced, changes were implemented to remedy this feature. The Kennedy silver half dollars that were struck in that first batch are considered very rare and a welcome addition to any collection, especially top quality specimens. In 1975 and 1976, Independent Hall was minted on the bicentennial silver half dollars and all halves wear the date “1776 - 1976” during this time.

Mint Marks

Under the eagle's talon is where you find the mint mark on the 1964 Kennedy silver half dollars. Beginning in 1968, this was moved above the date, in the neck of the president's profile. From 1969 – 1979, those coined at the Philadelphia Mint are blank, after 1980, they wear a “P”. Kennedy silver half dollars coined at the Denver Mint display a “D” and an “S” is present on specimens from the San Francisco Mint.


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