Collecting Kennedy half dollars is a fun series for all types of collectors. It is easy enough for the beginning collector and provides enough challenges for the intermediate and advanced collectors too. The diversity of different types of Kennedy half dollars and the errors and varieties provide multiple opportunities for all collectors.
Collecting Kennedy Half Dollars
Assembling a collection of Kennedy half dollars is very doable and very affordable. Most collectors assemble a date and mint mark set of business strike coins. Intermediate collectors will also add proof coins to their collection. Advanced collectors strive to assemble a complete collection of business strikes, proof strikes, special strikes (including the rare 1998-S Silver Matte Finish Proof) and well-known errors and varieties.
There are several subtypes of Kennedy half dollars that you will need to know in order to become a knowledgeable collector.
Silver Coinage (90% Silver)
Due to the rising price of silver in the early 1960s, the 1964 Kennedy half dollar was the only 90% silver business strike to enter circulation.
Silver Clad Coinage (40% Silver)
Beginning in 1965, the mint began producing Kennedy half dollars that contained only 40% silver. The outer layers contained a mix of 80% silver and 20% copper, while the inner core was composed of 20.9% silver and 79.1% copper.
Special Mint Set (SMS) Strikes
Due to the nationwide coin shortage from 1965 to 1967, the mint stopped making proof strike coins for collectors and started making Special Mint Sets. These sets contained coins were special strikes that used special dies on coin presses that used extra pressure to produce the coins. Although not proof coins, most coins had a proof like appearance.
Copper-Nickel Clad Coinage
In 1971 the mint switched all production to the current copper-nickel clad composition. The outer layers are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel bonded to a core of pure copper.
1976 Bicentennial Coinage
To mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States, Congress authorized the production of a circulating commemorative Kennedy half dollar. In anticipation of extreme demand by the public, the mint did not produce any 1975 dated Kennedy half dollars because they began minting the 1776 - 1976 dated Bicentennial half dollars a year early. Special collector edition coins were struck on 40% silver clad planchets in both business strike and proof editions.
Proof Silver Clad Coinage
Proof collector coins were minted in every year since 1964 with the exception of 1965 through 1967 and 1975. From 1968 to 1970, and once again in 1976, the mint made proof coins from the standard 40% silver clad planchets. These coins were only available to collectors through purchasing a complete set of proof coins for that year.
Proof Copper-Nickel Clad
Beginning in 1971, proof Kennedys were struck on copper-nickel planchets. These too were only available in proof sets.
In 1964 the mint produced proof Kennedy half dollars for collectors in the standard 90% silver composition. In 1992, the mint began producing a special series of coinage specifically marketed to collectors. These special proof coins were struck on a 90% silver planchet and were only available to collectors through the purchase of a "Silver Premier Proof Set."
Proof Silver Matte Finish
In 1998 the US mint issued a special collectors' coin set that honored John F. Kennedy's brother, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK). The set contained the RFK Commemorative Silver Dollar and a specially struck proof Kennedy half dollar with a matt/satin finish. Since only 63,000 coins were struck at the San Francisco mint, collectors will pay a premium for an example of this rare coin.
Keys to Collecting Kennedy Half Dollars
Beginning collectors can start assembling a set of circulated Kennedy half dollars by obtaining rolls of coins from your local bank at face value. Unfortunately, the mint stopped producing business strikes for circulation in 2002 and now only produces them for inclusion in collector sets. But you can still obtain 2002 and later dated coins from your local coin dealer at a small premium over face value. The key date coins for beginners are the 1964 and 1964-D (price is driven by the silver content) and the 1970-D (low mintage; issued only in mint sets).
Intermediate collectors will strive to assemble a complete set of uncirculated Kennedy half dollars while advanced collectors will endeavor to pull together a set that includes uncirculated, proofs, special strikes and error and variety types. Most of these coins will have to be obtained through coin dealers or online auctions. The key date coins are the 1995-S silver proof and the 1998-S Silver Matt Finish Proof (priced around $200).