How to Collect Kennedy Half Dollars

By Joe Andrews
1964 Kennedy Half Dollar

Most Americans who were alive on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 can recall exactly what they were doing at the moment they heard the news of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Walter Cronkite's CBS bulletins describing the events in Dallas, Texas early that afternoon are still as vivid now as they were then. This was a great loss which overtook the country. The funeral procession in Washington, DC (attended by many world leaders) and burial at Arlington National Cemetery were televised throughout the weekend. Gradually, the grief found expression in the form of many memorials, including the design and minting of a special JFK fifty-cent piece. Miss Eva Adams, Director of the United States Mint in late 1963, had a discussion with Gilroy Roberts, Chief Engraver of the Mint, shortly after the death of the President. Quarter, half dollar and dollar denominations were considered, and after consultation with Mrs. Kennedy, and several preliminary designs were reviewed, a final choice was made. The 1964 Kennedy half dollar was an instant success. It was also hoarded by the public immediately upon its release. More than 400 MILLION coins were minted, and this did not satisfy the demand. Silver coins have long disappeared. Nowadays, Kennedy halves in general, are rarely found in circulation. The full set is difficult to assemble, however, it is well worth the effort. This article will give you pointers on collecting Kennedy half dollars.

STARTING A COLLECTION

The Kennedy half dollar has been minted since 1964. There are a few rare dates, one doubled die and a special Matte proof issue. Otherwise, most of the other dates were issued in large quantities, except for some of the Proof sets. A "Bicentennial" design was issued in 1976. After 1964, 40 percent silver halves were issued until 1970. Standard "clad" coins were then produced. In 1992 a Proof 90 percent silver coin was offered as an option and has been part of the silver Proof series since then. A complete set of all dates/mint marks is a very difficult task, and will involve considerable time, expense and effort.

YEAR SET

It will be much easier to assemble a year set, and you might want to consider trying to collect one coin for each year of the Series. Mint marks do not matter. There are a total of 45 coins (1964 to 2008). Purchase a generic half dollar album that you can write in the dates in order. Start with the local bank and ask for a few rolls of half dollars. Pick out the coins that fit the empty slots. If you know a bank that has a change counter, your task will be easier, as you won't have to roll up the duplicate, unneeded coins!

PROOF COINS (CLAD OR SILVER)

You may want to choose to collect Proof half dollars, only. The 1964 half dollar has a (silver) proof edition. There was a lapse of three years (1965 to 1967) in which only "special mint sets" were made. Then, in 1968, the San Francisco mint issued regular clad Proof coins. Ninety percent silver halves returned in 1992. This option will be a more difficult one to collect, and the clad Proofs will be the least expensive.

THE COMPLETE SET

This contains over 100 coins and is a very difficult endeavor, indeed. You will need to purchase an album (Whitman or Dansco) which holds all of the regular and special Proof/Mint Set issues. Certainly, procuring half dollar rolls from your local bank will be a good start. In time, you will have to go to a coin show or a dealer to fill in the key dates. If you are persistent, in time you may complete this task and have a wonderful and complete collection.

RARITIES AND LOW MINTAGE ISSUES

a. 1970 D (Issued only in mint sets) b. 1974 D Doubled Die Obverse (not part of regular set) c. 1979 S Proof, "Clear S" d. 1993 S Proof, Silver e. 1994 S Proof, Silver f. 1995 S Proof, Silver g. 1997 S Proof, Silver h. 1998 S MATTE Proof Silver (Very rare and not a regular issue)

Items b and h are not required, and are extremely expensive.