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HomeUS Coins1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: CoinWeek / Adobe Stock.
1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: CoinWeek / Adobe Stock.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The 1983-P Kennedy half dollar was struck at the Philadelphia Mint and was intended to be a circulating coin. The coin did manage to circulate, somewhat, and as youngsters, we can remember one or two passing through our hands in change. It was always a special appearance to get a half dollar in the early 1980s, as it was unusual to be presented one in change and their large size, a throwback to the days when half dollars were struck in .900 fine silver, made the act of spending one seem as if you were letting go of something that you were meant to hold onto. In this way, we guess the 50¢ coin shares some of the same attributes as the $2 Federal Reserve Note. Neither is rare, but it does not seem normal to give them up if, on the off-chance, you received one.

Philadelphia struck 34,139,000 half dollars in 1983, a benchmark that has never been surpassed in all years since. What makes the 1983 halves (both mints) stand out is the same thing that makes the 1982-P and D Kennedy halves more valuable than most other clad dates: the fact that the United States Mint was working 24-hour shifts to meet demand for circulating coinage and eliminated its annual Uncirculated Coin Sets in 1982-1983. A small number of Souvenir Sets (essentially Mint-made Uncirculated Coin Sets, but produced for sale at United States Mint gift shops) were produced, but the typical 1-2 million Mint State coins reserved for sets were not issued, and therefore, the only way to source for these coins would be those that were held back in bags or rolls.

In nearly 15 years of numismatic reporting, we have not seen a Mint bag of 1983-P halves come to market.

Another interesting aspect of the 1983 issue relates to the Mint’s moving of the obverse date and lettering away from the coin’s edge. This slight change improved the fidelity of the design.

How Much Is the 1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar Worth?

Let’s start with the obvious: at a minimum, the 1983-P Kennedy half dollar is worth its face value 50¢. Any value above this requires that the coin is in Mint State, a condition where the coin appears as new and exhibits no signs of wear or post-mint damage. It would be highly unusual for a coin casually pulled from circulation at any point after the first year or two of release to remain in Mint State.

Raw Mint State coins sell on eBay at a pace of a couple a day, and sellers generally get between $3 and $5 per coin. The Red Book ascribes a value of $8 for the coin in the 2024 edition, but this is a retail price.

The value of the 1983-P Kennedy half dollar increases dramatically in the certified grades of MS66 and above, while coins graded through MS65 fall below the issue’s terminal point. In today’s market, we expect the properly photographed MS66 coin might bring between $30 and $40 on eBay. MS67 coins have sold for various prices in recent years, with examples selling between $260 and $290 in 2023-2024 auctions. This price is down from ten years ago, simply because the size of the certified population has increased faster than the number of new collectors competing for coins at these price points.

We anticipate that today’s populations represent a fraction of the available coins for these dates, but caution collectors that there is a finite number of potential MS67 or better coins to be made.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS68 (1, 4/2024), NGC MS67+ (1, 4/2024), and CAC None Graded (0:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS MS67+ #47455371: GreatCollections, August 27, 2023, Lot 1422362 – $1,357.88.
  • PCGS MS67+ #81344307: GreatCollections, August 14, 2016, Lot 383086 – View. Pale blue and pea green toning around the periphery.
  • NGC MS67 #6800670-004: eBay – Profile Coins and Collectibles, March 25, 2024 – $259.99.
  • NGC MS67 #6257968-002: GreatCollections, February 18, 2024, Lot 1521616 – View. Brilliant.
  • PCGS MS67 #5610507: Stack’s Bowers, April 12, 2023, Lot 91765 – $288.
  • PCGS MS67 #29593618: GreatCollections, May 18, 2014, Lot 193635 – View; Heritage Auctions, November 3, 2015, Lot 21872 – $552.25. Reholdered. Vennekotter Collection on insert; GreatCollections, May 22, 2022, Lot 1156518 – View. Patchy olive toning.
  • NGC MS67 #2724463-021: Heritage Auctions, November 13, 2018, Lot 23573 – $432.
  • PCGS MS67 #81693313: GreatCollections, February 26, 2017, Lot 428904 – View; Heritage Auctions, November 4, 2017, Lot 19819 – $360.
  • PCGS MS67 #81174107: Heritage Auctions, November 2, 2016, Lot 7569 – $793.13. Teal and dark gold toning around the periphery.

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Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the Kennedy half dollar was designed by Gilroy Roberts, Chief Engraver at 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 to serve as president, Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20, 1961, and assassinated on November 22, 1963. The nation’s grief was such that Congress and the U.S. 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 1970 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 “P” 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:

1970-D Kennedy Half Dollar ReverseRoberts’ assistant, Frank Gasparro, designed the reverse. He based the eagle on the presidential coat of arms from the Seal of the President of the United States, which is based on the obverse of the Great Seal of the United States. The presidential seal in its current form was finalized by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, though the number of stars on the seal (and hence the coin) went from 48 to 50 as the states of Alaska and Hawaii entered the Union.

The heraldic eagle’s wings and legs are spread in four directions. The left talon (viewer’s right) holds arrows, a symbol of war, while the right claw (viewer’s left) holds an olive branch, a symbol of peace. It is tradition for the eagle to face one side or the other relative to national circumstances at the time of striking; in this instance, the eagle faces towards the olive branch despite America’s involvement in Vietnam and other conflicts around the world.

Frank Gasparro’s initials (“FG”) are between the eagle’s left leg and tail feathers.

A Union shield covers the eagle’s breast. Vertical bars representing the 13 red and white stripes of the American flag run down most of its face, representing the original 13 colonies of the United States. The top of the shield (a horizontal band is otherwise known in heraldry as a chief) features no stars.

Immediately above the eagle’s head is a scroll featuring the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The design behind and above the eagle, which consists of 15 rays, nine stars, and a mass of clouds, is called the glory and is a common design element of both heraldry and an earlier period of numismatics.

The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA runs clockwise along the top rim of the reverse, while the denomination HALF DOLLAR runs counterclockwise along the bottom. Dots are placed between the two inscriptions at both ends. Surrounding the eagle is a ring of 50 stars, representing the 50 states of the Union at the time of the coin’s production.

Gasparro became Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint on February 11, 1965 after Roberts’ work with the Franklin Mint caused the United States Mint to let Roberts go. Gasparro had served as Roberts’ assistant for three years between ’62 and ’65. Besides the Kennedy half dollar reverse, Gasparro had also designed the Lincoln cent memorial reverse, the Eisenhower dollar obverse and regular reverse, and the Susan B. Anthony dollar, among other works.

Frank Gasparro retired from the Mint on January 16, 1981.

Edge:

The edge of the 1983-P Kennedy half dollar is reeded.

Designers

Gilroy Roberts was the ninth Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, serving from 1948 to 1965. He is primarily remembered for his design of the Kennedy half dollar obverse.

Frank Gasparro was an American medalist and coin designer. After serving as Gilroy Roberts’s assistant engraver, he became the 10th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, serving from 1965 to 1981 (View Designer’s Profile).

1983-P Kennedy Half Dollar Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1983
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mint Mark: P (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 34,139,000
Alloy: 75% Copper, 25% Nickel
Weight: 11.34 g
Diameter: 30.60 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Gilroy Roberts
REV Designer: Frank Gasparro
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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1 COMMENT

  1. Erratum: The article states that the coin’s composition is 75% copper and 25% nickel. While that’s true of the outer cladding, the core is pure copper resulting in an overall composition of 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel.

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