The November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy prompted one of the fastest coin issues in U.S. Mint history. Almost immediately after his death, Mint Director Eva Adams told Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts that the idea of placing Kennedy on a coin was already being considered.
Congressional approval is required for any design change of a coin that has been in circulation for less than 25 years, so Representative Henry Gonzales of Texas introduced a bill in early December, 1963 to commemorate the late president on the half dollar. President Lyndon Johnson endorsed the legislation, and it passed on December 30, barely a month after the assassination, and allowed for production to begin the following month.
90% Silver JFK Half Dollar Coin Design
In order to meet the schedule, Chief Engraver Robert’s design for the 1961 Kennedy inauguration medal featuring a left-facing bust of the president was chosen for the coin’s face with slight modifications. The inscription “Liberty” sits just behind the bust and the motto “In God We Trust” flanks its base with the date below it. Frank Gasparro’s design for the 1962 presidential appreciation medal’s reverse was also modified slightly for the back of the new half dollar. It features a large presidential seal surrounded by fifty stars and the inscriptions “United States of America” and “Half Dollar.” The first dies were ready by January 2, 1964, with only proof coins initially struck. The first coins intended for circulation were struck at the Denver mint on January 30, with a ceremonial “first strike” held in both Denver and Philadelphia on February 11.
First Issue Coin Rationing and Production
When released for circulation in March, 1964, a block-long line formed at the Treasury offices in Washington, and similar demand at banks and coin dealers caused the coins to be rationed in spite of an initial public release of 70,000 coins. The Treasury quickly upped its first-year order of the coins from 91 million to 141 million. By November, over 160 million pieces had been made, but hardly any made it into circulation.
In 1964, half dollars still contained 90% silver, and with silver prices rising, hoarders and JFK admirers were grabbing the coins as fast as they could be made. In an attempt to curb the demand by flooding the market, Congress allowed the Treasury to continue striking 90% silver half dollars with the 1964 date into 1965. Ultimately, nearly 430 million 1964-date Kennedy half dollars were produced, more than the entire 16-year run of the previous Franklin half dollars.
By the following year, silver prices had increased to the point that 1965-date half dollars were reduced to 40% silver content when they went into production late that year, and in 1971, silver content was eliminated entirely.
Low Circulation of the 1964 90% Silver Kennedy Half Dollar
The unprecedented popularity of the 1964 Kennedy half dollars, along with their high silver content, has meant that hardly any went into circulation, and even fewer are in public hands today. The Great American Coin Company® is extremely pleased to have acquired a stock of these iconic coins to offer our customers.
Our 90% Silver Kennedy Half Dollars are all dated 1964 and are offered in Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) condition. Their beauty and collectible value greatly exceeds their bullion worth, and they make special additions to any coin collection or as mementos of the late president. They also make an excellent gift for the coin collector in your family, but our supply is limited, so act now before this opportunity vanishes. In addition to Kennedy half dollars, The Great American Coin Company offers a wide selection of collectible U.S. coins and paper money as well as currency from around the world. We keep adding unique items as they become available, so be sure to visit us frequently. And while you’re there, be sure to visit our blog for interesting and timely articles about currency and precious metals.