United States 1976 Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar Obverse

Americans have long considered the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 as the birthday of the United States. And 1976 was a special year: the 200th anniversary, or bicentennial, of our nation’s founding.

But Congress and the United States Mint were still leery of what they viewed as the abuses of what we now call the Classic Commemorative series.

So for the country’s Bicentennial in 1976, the Mint released special versions of three of our circulating coins: the Washington quarter, the Kennedy half dollar and the Eisenhower dollar. Bicentennial coinage was issued for two years (1975-76), and coins issued in both years featured the dual date of “1776-1976”. Wanting new “Bicentennial-themed” designs for the reverse of each denomination, the Treasury Department held a design competition open to all American citizens. Out of 884 entries, 12 semifinalists were chosen; a five-judge panel of experts then selected the winning designs.

All three were created by artists that were either already working professionally or were about to. Jack Ahr, designer of the Bicentennial quarter reverse, was the owner of his own commercial art company. Seth G. Huntington, designer of the half dollar reverse, worked as the head of the art department at the marketing firm of Brown & Bigelow. And Dennis R. Williams, the designer of the Eisenhower dollar’s Bicentennial reverse, was an art student at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. Each received a $5,000 prize and struck the first of their respective coins at a ceremony in Philadelphia. coin None of them had ever worked for the Mint before, and none of them have since.

United States 1976 Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar

The Bicentennial Kennedy half dollar was the first of the three coins to be issued, at a ceremony in Huntington’s hometown of Minneapolis held on July 7, 1975. Over the next year and a half, a total of 521,873,248 clad business strike Bicentennial halves would be struck in Philadelphia and Denver, with 7,059,099 Proof clads produced in San Francisco. Throwback 40% silver clad half dollars were also minted in San Francisco, with approximately 11,000,000 business strikes and approximately 4,000,000 Proof strikes manufactured. It is difficult to know for sure how many of these still survive since many were undoubtedly lost to the Great Silver Melt of the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Like most Kennedy half dollars of any period, significant contact marks can be found on the Bicentennial issue – especially on the President’s cheek, around his eyes and in his hair. If you’re lucky enough to find a silver clad version, the softness of the metal relative to the copper-nickel composition makes for deeper and more frequent scratches and marks.

Quality Mint State pieces tend to be middle of the road, with 64 and 65 grades being most common. And even though finding one of these coins in circulation is a lot less common now than it was, say, 20 years ago, the coins are still “common” according to any objective measure of rarity. It remains one of the more popular issues of the modern clad era of United States coinage.

Design

Obverse:

On all Kennedy half dollars, including the Bicentennial issue, the obverse was designed by Gilroy Roberts, Chief Engraver at the United States Mint from July 22, 1948 to February 11, 1965. Roberts’ medal for President Kennedy’s inauguration served as the basis of the coin’s design.

The central motif is a portrait 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 dual date 1776 * 1976 is cradled at the bottom of the coin, with the numeral “1” of “1776” placed beneath the “G” in “GOD” and the “6” in “1976” located under the “R” in “TRUST”. The national motto IN GOD WE TRUST is inscribed in a straight line above the year but divided by the harp truncation of Kennedy’s neck. For the 1976-D and 1976-S half dollars, the mint mark “D” or “S” is found on the right side of the point of this truncation.

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

Reverse:

1976 Kennedy Half Dollar ReverseThe reverse features a symmetrical front view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was built in 1753 and served as the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress (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 stars are lined up 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 edge of the coin. Seth Huntington’s initials “SGH” are found at the lower right corner of the hall, below E PLURIBUS UNUM.

Edge:

The edge of the 1976 Bicentennial Kennedy half dollar is reeded.

Designer(s)

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

At the time his design was selected, Seth Huntington was the head artist of Minneapolis, Minnesota marketing firm Brown & Bigelow.

Coin Specifications

Country:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1975-76
Denomination:  Half Dollar
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia), D (Denver), & S (San Francisco)
Mintage: Clad Business Strike (P & D): 521,873,248; Clad Proof (S): 7,059,099; Silver Clad (S): 11,000,000; Silver Clad Proof (S): 4,000,000
Alloy:  Clad: 75% Copper, 25% Nickel clad over pure Copper center; Silver Clad: 40% Silver, %60 Copper
Weight:  Clad: 11.34 g; Silver Clad: 11.50 g
Diameter:  30.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer  Gilroy Roberts
REV Designer  Seth G. Huntington
Quality: Business Strike, Proof

 


 

40 COMMENTS

  1. I have (11) 1776-1976 Kennedy half dollars, 14(1971) half dollars, 5(1972) half dollars, 7(1973)half dollars, 8(1974) half dollars,2(1977)half dollars,1(1978)half dollar,1(1980)half dollar,2(1981)half dollars,r(1983)half dollars and 1(1985)half dollar. I do not know much about their value Should i keep them or sell them?

    • these coins, depending on condition, could be worth nominally over their face value. Or not. Keeping them is really just a matter of your level of interest.

    • I actually have one which appears to be from the Denver mint as it has 1776 to 1976 but it does not have a “D”. Unfortunately it not in great condition.

      • What indicates it’s from Denver? AFAIK there’ve been no reports of Denver Bicentennial halves having been accidentally struck without a mint mark (see e.g. 1982 “plain” dimes).

        Remember, the lack of a mint mark on a pre-1980 coin normally means that it was struck in Philadelphia. There are a few exceptions of course, but not Bicentennial halves.

      • Yes, please explain how it appears to be from Denver if it has no mint mark. All bicentennial half dollars minted in philly, Denver and San Francisco have the double date of 1776-1976. Only Philadelphia coins have no mint mark unless its an error coin. Which isnt a known error in the bicentennial coins.

    • Remember that until 1980 Philadelphia didn’t use a “P” mint mark on coins (war nickels excepted, of course). All the absence of a mint mark means is that your coin is one of the flood of Bicentennial halves minted in Philly.

    • You’d have a BIcentennial half, as no special coins were minted for the 1876 Centennial. Also if you look at the picture in this article you’ll see that the E and R merge into Kennedy’s hair, so that’s part of the design rather than being an error.

      It’s always advisable to look at other examples of a coin before concluding that a design element is some form of error. Common examples of supposed “mistakes” include the fact that the reverse side of ALL US coins is upside-down with respect to the obverse, the smaller “o” in “of” on Lincoln Memorial cents, and of course the Latinized spelling TRVST on some early-20th century designs.

  2. I have 14 bicentennial half dollars all Denver mint. Only a few in mint state. My question is what would be the range of weight considering one or two might be on a foreign planchet. My coins weight from 11.30g to 11.12g.

  3. I have a half dollar on the reverse side where it says independence hall the h in hall is not there it says independence all this has to be an error right should I send a picture.

    • That sounds like it might be a filled-die error. It can happen when some grease or crud gets into one of the recesses of the die that strikes part of the design. Unfortunately, most filled-die errors don’t command a major premium.

  4. I have a bicentennial Kennedy half dollar and it’s in side a clear plastic that says John F Kennedy Performing Arts Center and it has no mint at all but that little flower or something right underneath neck I don’t know what it is how much is that worth about

    • I couldn’t find a specific listing for the coin you describe, but similar items seem to be retailing for $4 to $10. It would be best to have it examined in person by a coin expert.

      – The little symbol underneath the portrait’s neck is an intertwined G and R, the monogram of Gilroy Roberts who designed the coin’s obverse.

      – As the article notes, the lack of a mint mark simply means the coin was minted in Philadelphia. It’s not any kind of an error, because (except for war nickels, of course) Philly didn’t use the “P” mint mark until 1979/80.

  5. I have 1776-1976 bicentennial half dollar coin. I weigh all of my halves before exchanging. I found one that has D mint Mark but it weighs 11.50? Thought only S was silver?

    • My impression is that the weight tolerances were a bit sloppy, so that _might_ be within tolerances.

      In any case the best way to check is simply to look at the coin’s edge. Brown or reddish is copper, while gray or bluish-gray would indicate silver-clad. There’ve been a very, very small number of off-metal errors so if you have doubts my 2¢ would be to have it examined in person.

    • If it’s one of the hundreds of millions of circulating cupronickel-clad coins made that year, unfortunately it’s only worth face value. If it’s uncirculated or proof it could be worth a few dollars or more, depending on its strike quality.

    • It’s what’s called a magician’s coin, a novelty item made by cutting apart two genuine coins and swapping faces. They sell for a few bucks from novelty suppliers, but being altered coins they generally aren’t collectible except as curiosities.

  6. I have quite a few Kennedy halves,but one is like a mirror in light,another one is like a brushed nickel,or satin finish,both are D mint marked,very little scratches on either,just trying to find out exactly what these two are

  7. How do I determine the difference between the three Kennedy 1/2 dollars?
    1. 1776-1976S copper/nickel
    2. 1776-1976S Silver Clad
    3. 1776-1976S Proof Silver Clad
    I’ve just started collecting the Kennedy coins but don’t know how to determine the difference.

  8. I’m a little confused if the Kennedy half dollars that were minted at the Philadelphia don’t have a mint mark then why do I have Kennedy half dollars that have the p as a mint mark on the coin I found DNS and I found the p but a Philadelphia doesn’t put mints on it then what is that

    • What do you have to sell? Whatever you have, it would be best to get multiple opinions on the values. Most dealers in the numismatic field are very honest business people but you can find some bad apples in every bunch…
      I would be glad to give you my opinions if you would like. Email me at [email protected]
      Thank You Kindly, Michael

  9. Where is the mint mark for Denver suppose to be mine is right on the bottom edge of his bust half on the downslope and half below its hard to make out

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