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Kennedy Half Dollar (1964-Present) - History

The History of the Kennedy Half Dollar


1964 Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollar

1964 Uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollar

Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

The Kennedy half dollar honors the United States' 35th president, John F. Kennedy. Production began in 1964 and continues through today. Kennedy half dollars are collected by the beginner, as well as the intermediate and advanced collector. This is a fun series to collect in that it has several sub-types and a few well-known mint errors and varieties.

History of the Kennedy Half Dollar

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) was born on May 29, 1917 in Massachusetts. His father, Joseph, was a politically connected and very successful businessman. In 1941 he joined the Navy and commanded the famous naval ship PT-109, which was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Pacific Ocean. Kennedy was honored for his heroism and bravery for leading his men to safety. On January 30, 1961 he was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. His wife Jacqueline, and children John and Caroline, were popular and viewed very positively by the media.

On November 22, 1963 Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Congress moved very quickly to immortalize the popular president on the half dollar. Congressional authorization was necessary in order to replace the Franklin half dollar because it was only minted for 16 years, well short of the mandatory 25 year requirement before a coin design is replaced. The mint began coining the new Kennedy half dollar in January of 1964 and it was extremely popular with the public which was still in mourning over the president's death.

The Philadelphia mint struck over 273 million Kennedy half dollars dated 1964, while the Denver mint minted 156 million. The new coin was well received by the public and people were snatching them up as quickly as they got to the banks. Many people wanting to hold onto a piece of history squirreled away rolls of brand-new Kennedy half dollars. Unfortunately, after 1964 the popularity of the Kennedy half dollar began to fade. The workhorse coin of the US economy was, and still is, the Washington quarter dollar. Production figures began to fall from their 1964 high of over 429 million to just over 3 million 2011 dated coins.

Next: Collecting Tips and Keys to Collecting for the Kennedy Half Dollar

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