Collecting Kennedy half dollar coins is a fun series for all types of collectors. It is easy enough for the beginning collector and provides enough challenges for the intermediate and advanced collectors too. The diversity of different types of Kennedy half dollars, error coins and varieties offer multiple opportunities for all coin collectors.
Getting Started Collecting Kennedy Half Dollars
Assembling a collection of Kennedy half dollars is very doable and affordable. Most coin collectors collect a date and mint mark set of business strike coins. Intermediate collectors will also add Proof coins to their collection. Advanced collectors strive to assemble a complete collection of business strikes, Proof strikes, special strikes (including the rare 1998-S Silver Matte Finish Proof) and well-known errors and varieties.
There are several sub-types of Kennedy half dollars that you will need to know to become a knowledgeable collector.
Silver Coinage (90% Silver)
Due to the rising price of silver in the early 1960s, the 1964 Kennedy half dollar was the only 90% silver business strike half-dollar to enter circulation that year. The 90% silver composition, coupled with the United States citizens mourning the loss of their young president in 1963, saved a significant number of these coins as mementos of President Kennedy.
Silver Clad Coinage (40% Silver)
The United States Mint in 1965 began producing Kennedy half dollars that contained only 40% silver. The outer layers included a mix of 80% silver and 20% copper, while the inner core was composed of 20.9% silver and 79.1% copper. The Mint continued to produce Kennedy half dollars with 40% silver through 1970.
Special Mint Set (SMS) Strikes
Due to the nationwide coin shortage from 1965 to 1967, the mint stopped making Proof strike coins for collectors and started making Special Mint Sets. These sets contained coins were special strikes that used special dies on coin presses that used extra pressure to produce the coins. Although not Proof coins, some coins had a Proof-like appearance where the devices were frosted and the fields where mirrored.
Copper-Nickel Clad Coinage
In 1971 the mint switched all production to the current copper-nickel clad composition. The outer layers are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel bonded to a core of pure copper. This copper-nickel-clad composition replaced the last circulating coin to contain silver in the United States.
1976 Bicentennial Coinage
To mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States, Congress authorized the production of a circulating commemorative Kennedy half dollar. In anticipation of extreme demand by the public, the mint did not produce any 1975 dated Kennedy half dollars because they began minting the 1776 - 1976 dual-dated Bicentennial half dollars a year early. The U.S. Mint struck individual collector edition coins on 40% silver clad planchets in both business strike and Proof editions.
Proof Silver Clad Coinage
The United States Mint minted Proof Kennedy half-dollar collector coins in every year since 1964 except for 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1975. From 1968 to 1970, and once again in 1976, the mint made Proof coins from the standard 40% silver clad planchets. These coins were only available to collectors through purchasing a complete set of proof coins for that year.
Proof Silver Kennedy Coins
In 1964 the mint produced Proof Kennedy half dollars for collectors in the standard 90% silver composition as authorized by law. In 1992, the mint created a limited series of coinage marketed explicitly to coin collectors. These special Proof coins were struck on a 90% silver planchet and were only available to collectors through the purchase of a "Silver Premier Proof Set."
Proof Silver Matte Finish
In 1998 the U.S. Mint issued a special collectors' coin set that honored John F. Kennedy's brother, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK). The set contained the RFK Commemorative Silver Dollar and a specially struck Proof Kennedy half dollar with a matte satin finish. Since the mint struck only 63,000 coins at the San Francisco mint, collectors will pay a premium for an example of this scarce coin.
This special uncirculated two-coin set was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy half-dollar first released in 1964. The collection includes two copper-nickel clad 2014 Kennedy half-dollars with uncirculated finishes, one each from the United States Mint at Philadelphia and Denver. The designs on these coins replicate the high-relief portrait on the original 1964 coin.
The U.S. Mint produced a four coin silver half-dollar set featuring four different finishes on the coins. Each coin in this set featured the original 1964 unmodified high relief obverse design that was hand sculpted by United States Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts in 1963.
The United States Mint issued a special Proof bullion coin made out of 99.99% pure gold to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first issue of the Kennedy half-dollar. Over the last fifty years, the design has been minutely modified to accommodate high-capacity coin presses better. This special anniversary coin features the original 1964 unmodified high relief obverse design that was hand sculpted by United States Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts.
Note: Some collectors consider this coin a "bullion" issue and are therefore not part of a Kennedy half-dollar collection.
Keys to Collecting Kennedy Half Dollars
Beginning collectors can start assembling a set of circulated Kennedy half dollars by obtaining rolls of coins from your local bank at face value. Unfortunately, the mint stopped producing business strikes for circulation in 2002. The mint now only provides them for inclusion in collector sets. But you can still obtain 2002 and later dated coins from your local coin dealer at a small premium over face value. The key date coins for beginners are the 1964 and 1964-D (usually the price is driven by the silver content) and the 1970-D (low mintage; issued only in mint sets).
Intermediate collectors will strive to assemble a complete set of uncirculated Kennedy half dollars while advanced collectors will endeavor to pull together a collection that includes uncirculated, Proof coins, special strikes, error coins and variety types. Most of these coins will have to be obtained through coin dealers or online auctions. The key date coins are the 1995-S silver proof and the 1998-S Silver Matte Finish Proof (priced around $200).
There are many Errors and Varieties for the Kennedy Half Dollar. Advanced collectors will want to add these coins to their collection too.