After President John F. Kennedy’s passing, the first Kennedy half-dollar was created in 1964. The front of the coin has a profile of President Kennedy, while the reverse bears the presidential seal.
We’ll look at what happened to the price of these coins in 1964 and how you can use this knowledge to add to your collection. We will also discuss other valuable coins you might not have thought about before and provide advice for identifying rare coins from this year.
History of the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar
President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, sparked shock and grief locally and internationally. The idea of honoring him on a circulating silver coin emerged the day after his passing.
The Peace dollar, the Franklin half-dollar, and the Washington quarter were the replacement options. Since 1935, the Peace dollar had yet to be produced, and millions were still stored in the Treasury Department vaults. Because Jacqueline Kennedy, the President’s widow, did not believe it was appropriate to replace George Washington with an image of her late husband, the Franklin half-dollar was chosen to be replaced.
Less than a week after President Kennedy’s passing, work on the Kennedy half-dollar got underway, with production set to begin in January, which is just over a month away. Kennedy’s Presidential Medal, which Gilroy Roberts, Chief Engraver at the US Mint, had created for JFK’s inauguration, served as the inspiration for the new coin’s obverse. The coin’s reverse was modeled after the President of the United States Seal by assistant engraver Frank Gasparro.
In the middle of December, Jackie Kennedy and the late President’s brother Robert looked over the designs and requested a few minor adjustments. Notably, Mrs. Kennedy felt that the hair on JFK’s likeness was overdone.
An Act of Congress was actually needed to change the Franklin half to the new Kennedy. The Treasury Secretary had the authority to change coin designs, but only for at least 25 years old coinages. The Franklin half was only 15 years old. Congress enacted the law on December 30, 1963. In preparation for the law’s adoption, dies had already been delivered to the Denver Mint.
How Did They Make So Many 1964 Half Dollars?
The Denver and Philadelphia Mints produced more than 429 million 1964 half dollars. This number exceeds the sum of Franklin’s half-dollars minted over sixteen years. How did the mint accomplish this feat?
The response of Congress to the coin scarcity situation of the early 1960s holds the key to the solution. People were stockpiling every dime, penny, and half dollar they could get their hands on due to the growing price of silver.
The result was that the economy was almost at a standstill. The answer was to make copper-nickel coating over a copper core, the new composition of silver coins.
While clad coinage manufacturing was ramping up, the mint continued to produce 90% silver coins. The 1964 date was retained on silver coins made in 1965 to avoid creating a collectible variant. As a result, the Kennedy silver half dollars from 1964 and 1964-D were produced for over two years.
1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Quick Facts
- First Year of Issue
- Designed in Less Than Five Weeks
- Only Circulating 1964 Half Dollar is composed of 90% Silver
- Some 1964 Half Dollars Were Actually minted in 1965
- 1964-D: 156,205,446
- 1964: 273,304,004
1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Values
Kennedy half dollars from 1964 have a vast mintage and are widely available. They are still widely available even though millions have been melted for their silver content. Due to their first-year issue status and 90% silver content, their values are somewhat higher than those of copper-clad mintages.
For the circulating 1964 half dollar, prices range from just over melt for an Extremely Fine ($11) to $17 in MS60, $22 in MS63, $27 in MS64, $42 in MS65, $87 in MS66, and an astonishing $700 in MS67. PCGS has only rated 110 coins at that level, including 12 MS67+.
The 1964-D attracts the exact pricing up to MS67, where it is somewhat less valued at $550 and has a comparable PCGS population of 95 coins in that grade.
Many unique variations of 1964 Kennedy half dollars are also in circulation, with the rare Double Die Obverse being one among them. The doubling is quite noticeable on that coin, notably on the inscription “In God We Trust.”
An MS60 DDO costs $35; MS60 is worth $60; MS63 is worth $125; MS64 is $250; and the highest grade, MS65, costs $400. Other variant coins for this date are also available.
Major 1964-D Kennedy Half Dollar Varieties
The Kennedy half-dollar production at the Denver Mint got off to a rocky start in 1964, leading to various faulty coins. (Most of the Kennedy half-dollar mistake coins would later come from the Denver Mint.)
The leading coin grading services acknowledge nine variants of the 1964-D half dollar, including the standard 1964-D. These variations include four distinct Doubled Die Obverses and one re-punched mintmark. Additionally, there are two odd Tripled Die Obverses and one unique Quadrupled Die Obverse.
There is no information available for some of these variants in grades less than About Uncirculated since they are in worn condition; they are all interchangeable with the typically circulated 1964-D Kennedy half.
1964 Proof Kennedy Half Dollar Values
Then there are the proof coins, which come in three varieties—those with no contrast, Cameo, and Deep Cameo—and have varying values based on each coin’s degree of Cameo contrast.
The non-Cameo coins are the most prevalent, except for the highest grades, which range in value from $10 for a Proof 60 to $42 for a Proof 67, $135 for a Proof 68, and an incredible $3,750 for a Proof 70, with just 220 coins graded by PCGS in the top grade.
The price range for Cameo coins is $14 to $45 for Proof 60 to 65, $60 for PF66, $75 for PF67, $150 for PF68, and $350 for PF69.
Although only 104 Deep Cameo coins have been graded by PCGS at that level, they are valued somewhat more in each grading up to PF65 than the previous two, then $100 in PF66, $200 in PF67, $600 in PF68, and a staggering $3,000 in PF69.
Two Versions of the 1964 Proof Half Dollar
According to numismatists, two variations of the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar proof coin, including the regular hair and the accentuated hair variants, were part of the 1964 silver Proof set. It is believed that the coins with the thicker and more distinct hairlines were the first ones minted, while the coins with ordinary hair came later. As soon as she saw the older design, Jacqueline Kennedy ordered the mint to soften the hairlines.
The accentuated variation is more expensive than the standard hair in the three distinct proof finishes listed above, with prices for Cameo, Proof, and Deep Cameo in PF60 starting at $25, $32, and $50, respectively, rising to $80, $140, and $550 in PF65, and peaking at exceptional values of $1,100, $5,100, and $25,000 for a rare PF69. PCGS has only graded 62 standard Proofs, 12 Cameo, and 1 Deep Cameo specimen at the highest level.
Remember to carefully examine your 1964 half-dollar Proof coins to notice the hairlines and the significant difference between them.
The Mysterious SMS Kennedy Half Dollar from 1964
The “SMS” Kennedy is the rarest 1964 half dollar. Nobody is sure of their origins or the processes involved in their production. They feature a satin finish and a very crisp strike. The fields have die-polishing lines but no contact traces, suggesting that each one was meticulously crafted one at a time.
Unlike previous proof of 1964 Kennedy halves, SMS coins feature an early variant of the reverse die rather than the actual Accented Hair dies. Only six of these strange 1964 SMS Kennedy half dollars have received NGC certification, and the PCGS total is twelve. The 1964 SMS Kennedy half has an auction record of $156,000 for a piece graded SP68 in 2019.
It is strange that additional 1964 coins with the same finish are known, which has led to conjecture that they were all produced by the Philadelphia Mint as a part of an experimental numismatic currency set in 1964. The lack of a complete 1964 SMS coin set suggests that all of them have been dispersed and sold separately.