By CoinWeek IQ …..
1974 was an interesting year at the Denver Mint. Not only was planning for the 1975/76 Bicentennial coinage well underway but the Denver facility was also preparing to move locations. In 1973, the Mint had announced that the new location would be near the South Platte River. However, as the Director of the Mint Mary T. Brooks stated in a press release, the railroad companies lobbied to stop this move since the new facility would interrupt their planned track extensions, and thus the Mint was forced to change plans.
Despite this activity, the Denver Mint struck 79,066,300 Kennedy half dollars. Most of this mintage is standard, but a small portion is comprised of the popular 1974-D Doubled Die Obverse. This error variety is quite interesting and is the only major doubled die variety in the entire series of Kennedy half dollars. The doubling can be seen in the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, the legend LIBERTY, and the date 1974, with TRUST displaying the most extreme doubling.
Undoubtfully more examples exist, so if you look through your 1974 Mint Sets, you may find one!
The 1974-D Kennedy Half in Today’s Market
Since the 1974-D Kennedy is a conditional rarity, most examples in AU or lower are only worth face value. However, the known Doubled Die Obverse variety commands a significant premium over standard examples and can be acquired for $40-50 in near Mint State. If an example is found in low Mint State grade, a collector can regularly expect to purchase the coin for $20-30.
Coins in slightly better condition (MS-65 and MS-66) generally range from $60-75. Since the highest grade recorded for this type is MS-67, they rarely come to sale. When they do, they generally sell for between $200 and $300. The auction record for this type was set at the 2016 September Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction when a Gem MS 67 example hammered for $823.
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 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 United States 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 1974 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.
Roberts’ 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 itself 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 a bunch of arrows, a symbol of war, while the right claw (viewer’s left) holds an olive branch, a symbol of peace. It is tradition to have the eagle 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 located between the eagle’s left leg and its 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, the stripes 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 a “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.
The edge of the 1974-D Kennedy half dollar is reeded with 150 reeds.
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.
Frank Gasparro was an American medalist and coin designer. He became Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on February 11, 1965, after Roberts’ work with the Franklin Mint caused the U.S. Mint to let Roberts go. Having served as an assistant engraver to Roberts for three years, he was the 10th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint until his retirement in 1981 (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1974|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|Alloy:||75% Copper and 25% Nickel over a 100% Copper core|
|OBV Designer||Gilroy Roberts|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|