90% Kennedy Half-Dollar – 90% silver coins had been minted by the United States since 1878. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, congressmen and citizens alike began to lobby to have him memorialized with his own coin. In a record of sorts for time-length to receive passage, Congress passed a measure to authorize the design of a Kennedy half-dollar in December 1963. Two known designers, Frank Gasparro and Gilroy Roberts, had engraved a Kennedy likeness already. This design was used to begin minting in January 1964. In March 1964, the Kennedy 90% half-dollar was released to the public.
Because of the circumstances behind the coinage, this proved to be a phenomenally popular coin. Collectors wanted the half-dollar. So did hoarders, because the price of silver was on the rise and they believed the 90% silver coin would be worth more than their purchase price later. Added to those owners were the mass of the American people, who wanted a nice memento of their fallen president. The Kennedy half-dollar went out of circulation almost from the day it was released to the public. The U.S. Mint increased production, only to have those coins leave circulation. By that time, the price of silver was significant enough that people were hoarding 90% silver coins for that reason alone. Thus, the US Mint chose a different way.
40% Kennedy Half-Dollar – In 1965, the U.S. Mint produced the Kennedy 40% half-dollar, a type of coin known as “silver clad”. This did not eliminate the kind of hoarding which had been occurring, so the silver clad Kennedy coins never saw much circulation, either. The 40% silver coins were minted from 1965 until 1970. In 1971, silver was eliminated completely from the coinage.
Bicentennial Kennedy Half-Dollar – A special commemorative Kennedy coin was struck in 1975 and 1976 for the United States Bicentennial. This coin had a different reverse than other Kennedy coins.
Business Strike Iron Clad Kennedy Coin – Also, a business strike was produced for the Bicentennial celebration. This coin was also silver clad. Circulating half-dollars remain, but the Kennedy half-dollar circulation is so limited that it hardly exists at all. Since 2002, the U.S. Mint only strikes Kennedy coins for commemorative reasons. These coins are sold by the Mint at a high premium.
Mint Marks – The reverse has a mint mark of P, D, S, or W for the city in which they are minted: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point. This is located underneath the eagle’s claw, where it grasps the olive branch, for coins minted from 1964 to 2014. From 1968 onward, is located above the date on the obverse for other issues. From 1965 to 1967, the Philadelphia mint mark was left off. The West Point mint mark only appears on the 2014 commemorative 40% silver US coin.
Kennedy Half-Dollar in Legend – In legend, the idea for the Kennedy coin came into being hours after his murder. On the evening of November 22, 1963, US Mint Director Eva Adams is said to have Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts to tell him that officials already were considering a depiction of John F. Kennedy. He was likely to be depicted on one of the larger silver coins (silver dollar, half dollar, or quarter dollar), but no other details were known. After Eva Adams spoke with Jacqueline Kennedy about her preferences on November 27, the director told Gilroy Roberts to begin the project. The decision of a half-dollar was made by the president’s widow, who said he would not want to replace George Washington on the silver dollar.
In recent years, the US Mint has a number of other collections investors might consider: the March of Dimes Series, the Presidents Series, and the various Silver Proof sets. Collectors can find rare coins like the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge 2015 Uncirculated Five Ounce Silver Coin, the U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Uncirculated Silver Dollar, and the Homestead National Monument coins. In fact, the National Monuments and National Parks both have their own series. Other sets that collectors should know about are the yearly Congratulation Set, which is released near the beginning of every year, the various three-coin sets, and the American Eagles coins.