The Kennedy half-dollar series provides some well-known and obscure mint errors and varieties. Although this series features one of the most popular presidents in United States history, demand for these coins is pretty high. In addition, because half dollars have not circulated consistently in U.S. commerce, they are abundantly available at most coin dealers and on the Internet. Therefore, finding nice circulated or beautifully uncirculated specimens should not be a problem.
Most older collectors remember the day in November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. The United States Mint released the first coins in 1964, and people scrambled to get a souvenir to remember this popular president. The mint produced more than 273 million coins at the Philadelphia mint and more than 156 million at the Denver mint facility.
The best-known variety is the 1964 Proof Heavily Accented Hair variety. Given the low demand for Kennedy half-dollar errors and varieties, most are highly affordable for collectors of all means. A careful search of the Internet or inquiry at your local coin dealer will yield several examples for you to evaluate.
Kennedy Half-Dollar Errors and Varieties
No coin series would be complete without its fair share of mint errors and die varieties. Beginning collectors will want to look for examples as they search their rolls for the following errors and varieties because they carry a premium over the normal common specimens.
1964 Proof Heavily Accented Hair
The hair above Kennedy's hair has a few more incused lines making his hair look more pronounced. Additionally, look at the "I" in LIBERTY. The lower left serif seems to be truncated or missing. Compare a common 1964 Proof Kennedy half-dollar to a Proof with the heavily accented hair variety, and you will see the difference immediately. Ask your local coin dealer to show you the coins so you can learn how to recognize this popular variety.
1964 Proof and Circulation Strike Doubled Die
Look carefully at the words WE TRUST on the obverse of the coin. You will see a slight doubling near the tops of the letter. It is also sometimes evident on the RTY of the word LIBERTY. Some 1964-D coins minted in Denver can also be doubled dies. Be careful that you do not confuse the coins with a double struck error. A doubled die variety will have both sets of letters rising from the field of the coin. A double struck coin will have letters that appeared smooshed to one side.
1968-S Proof Inverted Mint Mark
In 1968 mint marks were punched by hand into the coin dies. The workmen at the mint facility punched the "S" upside down. Normally the upper hook of the S is smaller than the lower hook. In this variety, the upper hook is larger than the lower. Use a ten powered loupe to help you identify this variety in your collection.
1971-D and 1977-D Struck on 40 Percent Silver Clad
A few of the 40 percent silver-clad planchets used from 1965 to 1970 slipped into regular production lines at the Denver mint in 1971. Silver clad planchets were also used in 1976 to produce the circulating commemorative American Bicentennial half-dollars. Once again, some of these silver-clad planchets were used to make Kennedy half-dollars dated 1977. The easiest way to tell if you have one, is to look at the edge of the coin. If there is a bright strip of copper encircling the edge of the coin, it is a regularly struck coin.
1974-D Doubled Die Obverse
A production error occurred on the obverse coin die in 1974. The letters on the coin appear to be doubled. The doubling is especially evident in the letters in TRUST on the obverse.
1979-S Proof Filled S & Clear S
In the middle of 1979, the mint replaced the obverse hubs for the Kennedy half-dollars. Due to years of use, the punch used to put the mint mark on the hub became worn and made the mint mark look more like a blob than an "S." The new hub had a mint mark that was much clearer.
1981-S Proof Clear S & Flat S
Once again in 1981, the hub was redone, and the mint mark was less pronounced and flatter. Additionally, the ends of the hook on the "S" have a bulbous end that is very pronounced.
1998-S Matte Special Mint Strike (SMS) Silver
This coin was part of a special commemorative set that featured a commemorative silver dollar of Robert F. Kennedy. The second coin in the set was a specially struck Kennedy half-dollar that had a matte finish and was made out of 90 percent silver. Unlike the Proof version, this coin does not have mirrored fields and frosted devices. The entire coin has an overall satin finish to it.
2014-W 50th Anniversary Gold Kennedy Half-Dollar
The United States Mint celebrated the 50th anniversary of the minting of the first Kennedy half-dollar. In addition to four other specially minted Kennedy half-dollars, the mint also produced a 99.99 percent pure gold half a troy ounce Kennedy half-dollar in the Proof finish. Only 73,772 coins were minted in this limited production run.