By CoinWeek IQ …..
The Philadelphia Mint struck 15,646,000 Kennedy half dollars in 1998. A typical year for a denomination that didn’t see much in the way of circulation but was still being struck in quantity, in the event that new halves were needed from the Federal Reserve. Most collectors, however, would acquire their 1998-P half dollars from that year’s uncirculated coin sets.
With the introduction of the 50 State Quarter Program in 1999, the Kennedy half dollar would lost its status as the centerpiece of Mint Sets. Because it was the only coin unlikely to be found in circulation, half dollars had drawn collectors to Mint Sets since the product’s reintroduction in 1984 (in the ’70s and early ’80s, dollar coins were included in Mint Sets and the sets were not issued in 1982 and 1983). With new circulating commemorative quarters, collectors had more than the half dollar to consider; those unable to find each of the five business-strike quarters from both the Philadelphia and Denver Mint facilities in circulation, or simply interested in having an example of each in Mint State, could get all the needed quarters from Mint Sets.
The Mint stopped striking the half dollar denomination for circulation entirely in 2002 (though it resumed earlier this year), making them only available at a slight premium, in Mint Sets, or in rolls and bags. Still, the Mint’s primary focus centered around its other coin programs.
Even though 15 million 1998-P half dollars were struck, the coin is not typically found in circulated grades or in circulation at all. No reports of circulation find 1998-P Kennedy halves occurred within the first six months of the year.
Perhaps a few million examples of the issue survive in Mint State. The majority of the issue that remain in an uncirculated condition are what we call “raw” coins. That is, uncertified.
Because the issue isn’t particularly valuable, the financial incentive to have an example certified is not particularly high. To date, just over 700 examples have passed through PCGS and NGC.
1998-P Kennedy half dollars are scarce in MS-68. PCGS records 425 grading events of 1998-P Kennedy half dollars, only six of which gave MS-68 grades. NGC records 279 grading events; 3 received a Prooflike designation. 13 of those grading events were MS-68.
Neither the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins nor Variety Vista lists any varieties of 1998-P Kennedy half dollars.
1998-P Kennedy half dollars are generally affordable. Auction results from the last 20 years suggest that in MS-66 the coins range in value from $9 to $75, in MS-67 from $23 to $95. MS-68 examples rarely cross the auction block, but interested collectors should be ready to pay quite a bit more. An example in an NGC slab is currently available on eBay for $1,500. Another is available on the same platform for $999. An example certified by PCGS crossed the auction block for $92.65 in November 1998.
The record auction price for a 1998-P Kennedy half dollar, $1,000, was realized on March 14, 2006 in an American Numismatic Rarities auction for an example graded MS-66 by PCGS.
Collectors interested in adding an example of the 1998-P Kennedy half dollar to their sets can find nice-looking uncirculated examples raw or certified in grades up to MS-67 easily and for less than $50.
Struck on the eve of the 50 State Quarters program that would to some extent supplant it (at least in Mint Sets), the 1998-P Kennedy half dollar is an accessible, affordable issue necessary for those putting together a date set of Kennedy halves and might be appealing to those collectors interested in the modern history of Mint products.
Design of the Kennedy Half Dollar
The obverse of the Kennedy half dollar was designed by Gilroy Roberts, Chief Engraver of 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 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 1998 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. At the bottom of the coin beneath the truncation and centered between the two 9s in “1998” is the P mint mark. 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 (and soon-to-be replacement) Frank Gasparro designed the reverse. He based the heraldic 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 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 tucked 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 otherwise known in heraldry as a “chief”) features no stars. They are represented beneath the clouds in a space known as the “glory”. Nine stars are located in a row at the top. Four zigzag beneath the ribbon on the right side of the eagle’s head.
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 1998-P Kennedy half dollar is reeded.
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:||1998|
|Mint Mark:||P (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||75% Copper, 25% Nickel|
|OBV Designer||Gilroy Roberts|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|