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The Coin Geek

JFK and his Half Dollar

John Kennedy was the 35th president of the United states. Today (November 22, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the fateful day he was assassinated. The day is not lost in the realm of coins. In fact it created a coin we still have today- the Kennedy half dollar.

About 3 days after the assassination Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and instructed him to start looking into designs for a US coin with John F Kennedy’s visage on it. On December 10th President Johnson issued a press release recommending passage of a bill before congress, and on December 30th the congress passed the law issuing the Kennedy half dollar. During that short window Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and his staff worked behind the scenes to get a design ready, even before they knew what denomination it would be on. They had the widow, Mrs. Kennedy approve of the design before the law was even passed.kennedy

On January 2nd, 1964 proof dies were delivered and the mint presses started on a coin that we still have today. Coins started to reach circulation around the end of March. Mass hoarding of the coins was taking place. Many people sought them for the historical significance. Others were grabbing them up as silver prices started to rise. Over 425 million of the coins were produced, over 4 times as many as the year before.

Not only did the Kennedy half dollar replace the Franklin half, it also was the final year the US mint put 90% pure silver into the coins. Silver quality was reduced to 40% purity in the half dollar from 1965-1970. Since 1971 there has been no silver in circulating half dollars. Today the Kennedy half dollar’s value is based on the current silver market. With silver around $20 per ounce, the half dollar has about $7.25 of silver in each coin.

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