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Counterfeit Kennedy Half Dollars

By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
After working professionally as a coin grader for over 20 years, I am still surprised by what can cross my desk. Recently while grading coins from a PCGS express submission from Hong Kong, two such surprises were in a single submission. Submitted as a crossover from an alternative service based in China were two counterfeit Kennedy half dollars.

The Kennedy half dollar is not a coin that many would think as a target for counterfeiters. Nevertheless, whoever produced these counterfeits must have believed that it was profitable to do so. The pieces submitted were dated 1968-D and 1969-S, which, if authentic, would be made from a 40% silver composition and–at today’s melt value at around $25 an ounce–would represent an intrinsic value of around $3.75 a coin. However, neither piece was silver.

Yet regardless of the minimal value, the existence of these two counterfeit Kennedy pieces purporting to be common dates is something that should be noted.

Counterfeit 1968-D Kennedy Half. Image: PCGS.
Counterfeit 1968-D Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: PCGS.
A Genuine 1968-D Kennedy Half Dollar graded PCGS MS67+. Image: PCGS.
A Genuine 1968-D Kennedy Half Dollar graded PCGS MS67+. Image: PCGS.

The first piece mimicking a 1968-D half dollar has countless things wrong with the product that under minimum scrutiny would identify it as counterfeit. The surface and design are completely incorrect for a United States Mint product. For example, magnifying the bust of John F. Kennedy, one can see that the surface is textured, almost pixelated, in how poor the design transfer was done. This incorrect aspect is found across most of the design of the coin. For anyone who has studied United States coinage by die design, the reverse will jump out as not even the correct design for a 1968 half dollar; the design that was copied would be from a half dollar made between 1971 and 1984.

The piece claiming to be a 1969-S half dollar is an even worse counterfeit product. The San Francisco Mint half dollar issue from 1969 is a Proof-only coin, yet the counterfeit is not created in the image of a Proof, resulting in the first problem. Hearkening to the same bad production of the supposed 1968-D, the surface is textured, and the lettering is too thick and blurry. Going into more design elements, the San Francisco mintmark is incorrect, with no such “S” mintmark being produced in that style. The reverse design is also incorrect for a 1969 half dollar.

Counterfeit 1969-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: PCGS.
Counterfeit 1969-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: PCGS.
1969-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: PCGS.
1969-S Kennedy Half Dollar. Image: PCGS.

While both Kennedy half dollars were graded “MS63” by the outfit that placed these coins into their holders, they are indeed counterfeit pieces. The real danger in such pieces isn’t to fool a seasoned numismatist or professional hobby-related service, but to fool the novice or dealer who is not paying attention. I remember decades ago when groups of Chinese dollars, which were being sold in groups and lots at the time, started seeing salted-in counterfeits. A dealer told me they had bought 100 Chinese dollars, with 10 turning up as fake. At the time, the dealer was working on a 10% margin, so 10 fakes out of 100 destroyed the deal for them. Few dealers or even buyers look very hard at 40% silver half dollars, which are often sold in $1,000 face-value bags. Counterfeits like these have the possibility to ruin deals and defraud the buyer.

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