This coin is in excellent shape, as are many of the first year JFK half dollars. Most saw little or no circulation and were kept as mementos or hoarded when the US moved away from silver coinage (by removing silver from dimes and quarters while reducing the fineness of half dollars from 0.900 to 0.400 in 1965). I would grade it in EF40 condition.
The obverse shows President John F. Kennedy in profile, facing to the left. The legend “Liberty” runs around the rim from 9:00 to 3:00. The date is written along the rim counter-clockwise from 7:00 to 4:00. And the motto “In God We Trust” is written horizontally from 7:30 to 3:30.
The reverse is dominated by the Presidential Seal – which had recently been redesigned for Pres. Kennedy. It shows an eagle holding an olive branch (peace) in its right claw and arrows (strength) in its left. During time of war, the symbols would be reversed (which does beg the question about why the pattern wasn’t changed in 2001). The thirteen stripes on the eagle’s chest represent the 13 original colonies. The horizontal bar across the top represents Congress forming one government from many. A banner above the eagle and between the eagle’s spread wings reads “E Pluribus Unum”. Fifty stars representing the fifty states encircle the eagle. The legend from 9:00 to 3:00 reads “United States of America” and the denomination, written from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “Half Dollar”.
Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 277,254,766 (another 156,205,446 were minted with a Denver mint mark, so that Philadelphia accounted for 63.963% of the halfs produced in 1964). Here are mintage numbers for the entire series of JFK halfs.
Country of origin: The United States
Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Size: 30.6 mm / 2.15 mm thickness
Weight: 12.5 grams (0.36169 Troy oz ASW)
Varieties: The Accented Hair variety has sharply incised hair above Kennedy’s ear and is found only as a Proof. The Doubled Die obverse is available both as a circulation strike and as a Proof. The Doubled Die reverse is known only in Proof.
Other details: During his Thousand days in office, John F. Kennedy inspired millions of Americans – he was widely respected even by his political enemies. The Kennedy half dollar was first minted in 1964 and (as of 2012, when I am writing this), it is still being struck as the ‘circulating’ fifty cent piece of the United States. It was intended as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy with a single year of mintage planned, but just like the Washington quarter (first struck for the bicentennial of his birth in 1932), it was so popular that the design replaced the older pattern.
The JFK half dollar was authorized by Congress just over a month after Jack Kennedy’s death. Use of existing designs by Mint sculptors Frank Gasparro and Gilroy Roberts allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and the first coins were struck in January of 1964.
Mint Director Eva Adams was a great admirer of Kennedy. She spearheaded the design of a commemorative coin for the fallen president. Gilroy Roberts wrote that Mint Director Adams had called him within hours of the assassination. He was at the Mint at the time, working, and they talked about the suitability of the Quarter Dollar, Half Dollar, and Silver Dollar. The Silver Dollar had not been produced in over 30 years, and while there were discussions going on about reviving the largest silver denomination (there were Peace dollars minted in 1964, but all were supposedly melted down without being released). The silver dollar was not seen as a viable option. First Lady Jackie Kennedy opposed replacing the Washington design of the quarter, and thus the half dollar denomination was chosen.
The previous design for the half dollar featuring Benjamin Franklin had been minted since 1948. By law, US circulating coinage designs must be used for a minimum of 25 years before new designs can replace them, but at the request of President Johnson, an exception was made in this case with congressional approval.
Shortly after the coin’s release, the Denver Mint began receiving complaints that the new coin was marked with a hammer & sickle at the bottom of Kennedy’s neckline. In response, Roberts made public statements that the perceived Communist symbol was actually his monogram, a stylized “GR”
The first year of issue was the only one where coin silver was used (planchets with a fineness of 0.900 or 90% silver). From 1965 to 1970, special planchets were used with a 40% fineness (the outer layers had a higher silver content, giving them a lighter/brighter finish than they would otherwise have). These 40% silver coins are often referred to as Silver Clad Half Dollars or SilverClad JFK Halfs.
In 1971, silver was eliminated entirely from the Kennedy 50 cent piece, although a few 1970 planchets are known to have slipped through in later years (primarily 1971).
A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. Even though ample supplies of half dollars are now available, their circulation is extremely limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been struck to satisfy the demand from collectors, and are available through the Mint.
Estimated Value: $10.14 with silver at ~$38/oz