The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was a huge shock to the American nation and the world, not only because it is rare for an American president to be assassinated but also because Kennedy was widely admired. Following the enormous outpouring of national grief for the slain leader, the Johnson administration quickly put into effect plans for a circulating coin honoring JFK.
Mint Director Ava Adams called United States Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts the very same day JFK died to say plans were being considered to put Kennedy on a coin. The coin could be either a silver quarter, half dollar, or dollar. Mrs. Kennedy’s preference was for it to be a half dollar.
Many members of the public sent letters to the Mint asking for a Kennedy coin, which President Johnson also endorsed, and in December the Congress passed a bill authorizing the new half dollar.
To speed things up, they decided to have Gilroy Roberts make a few modifications to the design from the 1961 inaugural medal he designed as the basis for the obverse, and Frank Gasparro’s heraldic eagle that was on the reverse of a 1961 medal he created so that dies could be made quickly.
The 1964 Kennedy half dollar, made of 90% silver and 10% copper for that year only, was first struck in January 1064 and released into circulation in March – the shortest period ever between the death of an American leader and their appearance on a coin.
Kennedy Half Dollars
Kennedy half dollars were widely hoarded from the start as a memento of JFK, including overseas, even after production was increased, eventually reaching 273,304,004 pieces dated 1964 and another 156,205,446 coins dated 1964-D.
In 1965, the coin’s alloy was changed to 40% silver because, with the rise in silver prices, 90% silver coinage had a melt value equal to or greater than its face value. The Kennedy half dollar remained that way through 1970, and since 1971 it has been made like our dimes and quarters since 1965 of copper-nickel – with an outer core of 75% copper and 25% nickel surrounding an inner core all made of copper.
Both 90% and 40% silver Kennedy half dollars could still be found in change or obtained at banks for many years after they were issued, but that rarely happens now. And although the coins are still struck in clad, since 2002 they are not made for circulation and are only sold by the Mint in rolls, bags, and annual Proof and mint sets.
Silver Kennedy Half Dollar
The silver content of 1964 and 1964-D Kennedy half dollars is just over one-third of an ounce, or .36169 ounces. At the current spot price of silver of $27.50 an ounce, each 90% silver 1964 Kennedy half has $9.95 worth of silver.
1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Values
For the circulation strike 1964 Kennedy half dollar, values start at just over melt for an XF ($11) to $16 in MS60, $20 in MS63, $25 in MS64, $40 in MS65, $85 in MS66, and an impressive $700 in MS67. At that level, only 110 coins have been graded by PCGS including 12 MS67+.
The 1964-D commands the same prices up to MS67, where it is a little less valuable at $550 with a similar population at PCGS in that grade of 95 coins.
Here are nice, affordable BU examples of the 1964 and 1964-D.
There are also a number of special varieties of circulation 1964 Kennedy half dollars, including in particular the scarce Double Die Obverse. On that coin, the doubling is very prominent, especially on the motto “In God We Trust”.
An MS60 DDO is worth $35, MS60 $60, MS63 $125, MS64 $250 and the highest-known grade of MS65 runs $400. There are also some other variety coins for this date.
Kennedy Half Dollar Proof Values
Then there are the Proof coins, which are valued differently depending of the amount of Cameo contrast present on the coins, which are divided between those with no contrast, those with Cameo, and those with Deep Cameo (i.e., strong contrast between the design and fields).
The non-Cameo coins are the most common except for the top grades and are worth from $10 for Proof 60 to $42 in Proof 67, $70 in Proof 68, $135 in Proof 69, and an amazing $3,750 for a rare Proof 70, with only 220 graded by PCGS in the top grade.
For Cameo coins they run from $14 to $45 from Proof 60 to 65, then $60 in PF66, $75 in PF67 and $150 in PF68, and $350 in PF69.
Deep Cameo coins are worth a bit more in each grade up to PF65 than the first two, then $100 in PF66, $200 in PF67 and $600 in PF68, and a whopping $3,000 in PF69 – but only 104 have been graded at that level by PCGS.
Two Versions of the 1964 Proof Kennedy Half Dollar
There are two versions of the 1964 Kennedy half dollar Proof coins that were included in the 1964 silver Proof set, including the normal hair and the accented hair varieties according to numismatists. The ones with stronger and more detailed hairlines are believed to have been the first coins struck, while those with regular hair were made after that. Jacqueline Kennedy asked the mint to soften the hairlines after seeing the earlier version.
In the three different proof finishes mentioned above, the accented variety is more valuable than the regular hair starting at $25, $32 and $50 for Proof, Cameo, and Deep Cameo in PF60 to respectively $80, $140, and $550 in PF65 and topping out at impressive values of $1,100, $5,000 and $25,000 for a rare PF69. Only 62 regular Proof, 12 Cameo, and one Deep Cameo example have been graded at the top grade by PCGS.
So remember to look closely at your 1964 Kennedy half dollar Proof coins to see the hairlines and how much contrast they have.