One of the most popular collectibles in modern coinage is the Kennedy half dollar, which was first minted in 1964 and continues to be struck for sale to collectors. While the Kennedy half dollar was made for commerce purposes until 2002, the series didn't circulate widely after the mid-1960s, by which point millions of Americans were saving the coin as mementos of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and is memorialized on the coin. Over the course of the series, which spans more than five decades to date, several special issues and varieties have been released that are of particular interest to collectors.
Here's a look at eight of the most popular Kennedy half dollars:
- 1964 Kennedy half dollars – The first Kennedy half dollars were made at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints and contain a 90 percent silver composition. These are the only Kennedy half dollars made for circulation that contain a traditional 90 percent silver composition.
- 1970-D Kennedy half dollars – Only the Denver Mint struck Kennedy half dollars during the last year circulation strikes were made from silver; the silver content was lowered from 90 percent to 40 percent in 1965. The 1970-D Kennedy half dollars were minted only for collectors and were originally found only in that year's uncirculated sets. Collectors can now buy individual 1970-D Kennedy half dollars from coin dealers and other numismatic sources.
- 1974-D Doubled Die Kennedy half dollars – One of the most popular error varieties in the series, the 1974-D Doubled Die Kennedy half dollar exhibits doubling in the obverse of the coin in the letters "RUS" of "TRUST" in the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST." The coin is often included in highly specialized date-and-mintmark sets of the Kennedy half dollar.
- 1776-1976 Kennedy half dollars – Bicentennial Kennedy half dollars honor the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and were minted in 1975 and 1976. Several different 1776-1976 Bicentennial half dollar issues exist, including Philadelphia- and Denver-Mint copper-nickel business strikes, a San Francisco 40 percent silver business-strike half dollar, and "S"-mint proofs in copper-nickel clad and 40 percent silver varieties.
- 1979-S Type II Proof Kennedy half dollars – In 1979, the United States Mint refined the "S" mintmark on its proof coins; the "S" mintmark appears blobby on Type I coins and with more clearly defined serifs on the Type II issues. 1979-S Type II Kennedy half dollars are less common than Type I issues and are usually collected by Kennedy half dollar enthusiasts as a distinct subtype.
- 1981-S Type II Proof Kennedy half dollars – Just two years after the "S" mintmark was retooled for 1979 proof coinage, U.S. Mint die engravers once again refined the "S" mintmark, this time creating a revised "S" mintmark with more bulbous serifs. 1981-S Type II proof coins are especially scarce and are popular collectibles. 1981-S Type II Kennedy half dollar are among the scarcest copper-nickel proof Kennedy half dollars in the entire series.
- 1987 Kennedy half dollars – No 1987 Kennedy half dollars were minted for circulation, yet they were still produced and are included only in uncirculated sets. While the 1987-P and 1987-D Kennedy half dollars were available only in mint sets, they are widely available today as individual coins through coin dealers and online auction sites.
- 2014-W Gold 50th Anniversary Kennedy half dollar – The 2014 50th anniversary proof gold half dollar is nominally monetized as a 50-cent coin but contains three-quarters of an ounce of .9999-fine gold. These coins are often counted within the Kennedy half dollar series, yet many enthusiasts don't normally include the gold issue among their traditional date-and-mintmark Kennedy half dollar collections.
Even though they haven't widely circulated in more than 35 years, Kennedy half dollars are enduring coins in the American numismatic landscape. Therefore, the eight issues mentioned in this article, not to mention the remainder of the Kennedy half dollar series, are certain to be among the most sought-after United States coins for years to come.