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1976-D Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1976-D Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1976-D Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

First released on July 7, 1975, the Kennedy Half Dollar became the first United States Bicentennial design to reach public hands. So popular were these coins that demand, both global and domestic, quickly outstripped previous years.

To accommodate this, the Denver Mint struck a massive mintage of 287,565,248 pieces across two years (1975 and 1976), resulting in an almost 364% increase over the 1974 issuance. As all Kennedy halves struck during 1975 and 1976 display the characteristic double date of 1776-1976, there is only one way to determine when they were struck: the Mint Sets. If a Bicentennial coin is included in the 1975 Uncirculated Coin Set, it was struck in 1975. The same holds for the 1976 sets.

By September 1975, the United States Mint had shifted from only selling Uncirculated Sets directly to the public. A secondary program, which saw the Mint sell sets to private banks for secondary resale, accounted for 2.2 million of the over four million total sets sold. A year later, on September 9, 1976, Mint Director Mary Brooks announced that the Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon ordered the discontinuance of the Bicentennial designs and the resumption of the standard eagle reverse for all denominations for 1977. To help move the remaining product, Brooks advised all interested collectors to either place orders directly with the Mint or from a local bank.

How Much Is the 1976-D Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar Worth?

Many collectors pulled these coins from circulation when they were released, so examples can still be found at face value in Mint State. However, most examples pulled from circulation will be in circulated grades of Extra Fine to About Uncirculated. If the uneven distribution of the coins results in a stock of Bicentennial halves at a bank branch, you might get lucky and find some Choice or Gem uncirculated examples.

However, the coin is not typically found in Superb Gem.

Demonstrating this scarcity in high grades, PCGS reports only 395 pieces in MS 66 and 45 in MS 67 (including one at MS67+), while NGC has graded 1,646 coins in MS 66, 170 in MS 67 (nine at MS67+), and one in MS 68. In the past two years, the NGC population has increased dramatically.

Interestingly, where the most common grade for a modern US coin is usually MS 64, it is MS 65 for the clad 1776-1976-D Kennedy half dollar. This is most likely a byproduct of extensive early picking and a little concept CoinWeek calls the “Terminal Point.”

1976-D half dollars with unusual characteristics have sold for big premiums.

An error coin holds the auction record for this type. Sold for $3,105 in 2004 by Heritage Auctions, this off-metal error was struck on a quarter planchet and is emblematic of error pricing for this type. Before 2018, practically all examples that had sold for over $1,000 were error coins. But this has started to change recently, with several MS67 coins surpassing $1,000. The sole top pop PCGS MS67+ sold for $2,585 at a January 2014 Heritage sale, while a pair of NGC MS67+ coins sold at GreatCollections in August 2023 for $1,293.75 and $942.75, respectively.

Due to the massive dual-year mintage, these circulation strike coins are extremely common and only command a truly significant premium in that grade. The price plummets for MS 66s, where coins are generally worth between $35 and $65. Some examples have sold for as little as $11 or for as high as $150.

Drop one more grade to MS 65, and the price is nearly halved yet again. Examples in this grade have sold recently for between $25 and $30. It is important to note that while this is an increase over several years ago when they sold for $10 to $20, examples can still sell for as low as $1.

Continuing this trend with coins graded between MS 64 and MS 63, collectors can expect to purchase an example for $10 to $25. It is also quite easy to find pieces for as little as between $1 and $5. However, the premium can be quite substantial for toned or error coins, with nicely toned pieces selling for $100 to $200 and error pieces selling for thousands.

While in low-Mint State to high AU, these coins are worth $1 to $2, in all lower grades, they are only worth face value.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS67+ (1, 5/2024), NGC MS68 (1, 5/2024), and CACG MS64 (2, 5/2024).

  • NGC MS67+ #6605258-005: GreatCollections, August 27, 2023, Lot 863441 – $942.75.
  • NGC MS67+ #6266220-001: GreatCollections, August 20, 2023, Lot 1031282 – $1,293.75.
  • PCGS MS67+ #28244312: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2014, Lot 4814 – $2,585.
  • PCGS MS67 #30011210: Heritage Auctions, August 30, 2022, Lot 29547 – $480; “The Stephenville Collection,” Heritage Auctions, May 13, 2024, Lot 93068 – $720.
  • NGC MS67 #1533368-001: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2024, Lot 23565 – $420.
  • PCGS MS67 #4788067: Heritage Auctions, June 9, 2019, Lot 7560 – $1,080. Old Green Holder.
  • PCGS MS67 #34604764: Heritage Auctions, November 11, 2018, Lot 7514 – $1,440; Heritage Auctions, September 10, 2019, Lot 23612 – $960.
  • NGC MS67 #4392724-027: Heritage Auctions, November 5, 2017, Lot 21328 – $456. Kennedy novelty insert.
  • PCGS MS67 #11311545: Vennekotter Collection; Heritage Auctions, November 1, 2015, Lot 7625 – $1,116.25. Vennekotter Collection on insert; GreatCollections, July 2, 2017, Lot 473988 – View. Black spot in left obverse field.

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Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the Kennedy half dollar was designed by Gilroy Roberts, who served as the ninth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from July 22, 1948, to February 11, 1965. Roberts also designed President Kennedy’s inaugural medal, which served as the basis of the present design.

The central motif is an effigy of the 35th President of the United States, the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy. A war hero and (at the time) the youngest person ever elected president, Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20, 1961, and assassinated on November 22, 1963. The nation’s grief was such that Congress and the Mint rushed through a design change on the half-dollar denomination to commemorate the bereaved president.

Atop the upper half of the rim is the inscription LIBERTY, with Kennedy’s hair covering the bottom portions of the letters “B”, “E” and “R”. The date 1776-1976 is cradled at the bottom of the coin, while the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST is inscribed in a straight line above the year but divided by the sharp truncation of Kennedy’s neck. The mint mark “D” is found on the right side of the point of this truncation.

Gilroy Roberts’ initials are located on the truncation line of Kennedy’s bust, above the “WE” on the bottom right side of the coin.

Reverse:

The reverse features a symmetrical front view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, with its clock at 3:00. It was built in 1753. It served as the Second Continental Congress meeting place (1775-1783) and the Constitutional Convention (1787). Both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed here. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA wraps around the top half of the rim, while the denomination HALF DOLLAR is found at the bottom. Thirteen small five-pointed stars representing the 13 original colonies are directly above the denomination, following its curvature. The phrase 200 YEARS OF FREEDOM is located on the left of Independence Hall, and the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (“Out of Many, One”) is on the right. The name of the building runs immediately underneath.

A spire atop the hall inserts itself between the last two letters of the word “STATES” and almost touches the coin’s edge. Seth Huntington’s initials “SGH” are found at the lower right corner of the hall, below E PLURIBUS UNUM.

Edge:

The edge of the 1776-1976 D Kennedy half dollar is reeded with 150 reeds.

Designers

Gilroy Roberts was the ninth Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, serving from 1948-1965. He is best remembered for his design of the Kennedy Half Dollar obverse.

When his artwork was selected for the Bicentennial coin design competition, Seth Huntington was the head artist of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, marketing firm Brown & Bigelow.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Years of Issue: 1975 and 1976
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mintmark: D (Denver)
Mintage: 287,565,248
Alloy: 75% Copper and 25% Nickel over a 100% Copper core
Weight: 11.34 g
Diameter: 30.60 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Gilroy Roberts
REV Designer: Seth Huntington
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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23 COMMENTS

    • Proof and uncirculated are two different grades.

      If your coins are proofs, with an “S” mint mark, you have to know whether they’re the 40% silver variety or the cupronickel clad version. Their value depends on both the metal content and strike quality so they’d need an in-person evaluation, although in either case they don’t carry significant premiums.

      If they’re uncirculated but not proof, they could be worth a few dollars above face value but again it depends on the strike quality.

    • As the article notes, huge numbers were minted and saved when they were first released. Unless you have very high quality strikes or the coins are uncirculated or proof, they really don’t command any significant premium.

    • “E” is simply part of the motto “E Pluribus Unum”. As the article notes, if the coins are from circulation they have no added value even today.

    • If you look at the reverse side they’re half dollars rather than dollars. Also as the article notes even today circulation-grade ones remain common with no added value.

    • As the article notes, if they’re regular circulation-quality coins they don’t have any added value. Huge numbers were minted and loads of those were saved almost immediately.

  1. I just got $500 in half dollars from the bank, and the most common years are 1971 and 1976, and those two years comprise around 10% of the thousand half dollars. As the guy said, for a coin to be worth more than face value, it has to be rare. 1976 is the opposite of rare. Ironically, 2018 are the next most common year that I got, and they only struck 18 million of those, compared to around 400 million 1976 Kennedy’s.

  2. Why would a 1976 D Kennedy half dollar with almost no wear at all weigh 11.1 grams I’ve checked my scale against several other coins and the scale is spot on perfect, all the info I’ve looked up say that they should weigh 11.3, if my coin had wear i would give 11.2 a second thought but a friend got it from an uncirculated mint roll and had it for decades until I bought it and it’s never been in pocket change I just find it odd that it’s .2 grams off like this

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