Rare Kennedy Half Dollar 8

Back in the beginning of my coin collecting experience, the rarest Kennedy Half Dollar was the 1970-D. In fact, the Whitman folder I had for Kennedy Half Dollars had a covered hole in its spot with the note “Only in Mint Sets”. 1970 was the last year that half dollar had 40% silver (not including the 1976 bicentennial) and Denver was the only mint branch to mint them. However, none of them were released in circulation and only ended up in the yearly Mint Set. So, there were only 2,150,000 1970-D Kennedy Half Dollars minted.

As I got older, I learned of an error coin from 1974 which coincidentally was also from Denver. Some 1974-D Kennedy Half Dollars have a doubled die on the obverse of the coin. It’s supposed to be most noticeable on the “RUS” in “TRUST”. I won an auction from EBay back in the 1990s and got one certified by NGC in grade MS-64. With the naked eye, it’s tough to see. You definitely need to use magnification to see it. In a way, it is rare, but it is the common error for the Kennedy Half Dollar collection.

Shortly after that, I found out there was a rarity in the early proof 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars. The first 3 to 5 percent that were minted had accented hair above the ear. President Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline, did not like how it looked and wanted it changed. So, the mint thinned out the hair in that area and that was the way proofs would look until the late 1970s. With just under 4,000,000 proof half dollars minted that year, the number of Accented Hair proofs minted ranges somewhere between 120,000 and 200,000. That makes it rarer than the 1970-D I remember as a child.

So, What’s the Rarest Kennedy Half Dollar?

If you guessed it was the Gold 50th Anniversary Half Dollar from 2014, you’re close. There were 73,000 of them minted at West Point, making it the 2nd rarest Kennedy Half Dollar,

At only 62.500, the rarest one is the 1998 Matte Proof silver half dollar from the San Francisco mint. It was only included with the Uncirculated Robert F. Kennedy Commemorative Silver Dollar in a 2-coin set known as the Kennedy Collectors Set. The Robert Kennedy Commemorative was released on the 30th anniversary of him being shot in 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Kennedy was running for the Democratic Candidate for President, and Sirhan shot him because he said Kennedy was a supporter of Israel and once President was going to send bomber to bomb Palestinians.

Matte Proofs originated in Europe in the late 1800s. Instead of using polished dies, they would use unpolished dies and sandblasted them. The US Mint started using these unpolished dies on gold coins in 1908, but weren’t popular because people liked the polished proofs over these new dull looking ones. Some early Lincoln Cents, Buffalo Nickels and Peace Dollars had Matte Proofs, but by the time Proof Sets started coming out in 1936, coins would return to the polished designs. I’m not completely sure, but I think this 1998-S Matte Proof half dollar was the first time since the 1920s that the US Mint tried using the unpolished dies. When collectors found out about the Kennedy Collectors Set, it sold out fast from the mint.

By this time Kennedy Half Dollars were not used much in circulation, except casinos until they started using chips and tickets in place of them. Seeing the reduction of usage, the US mint stopped releasing them in circulation in 2002, only seeing them in Mint and Proof Sets. This reduced the production of Kennedy Half Dollars by around 90% as a result, but still not as rare as the 1998-S Matte Proof.

2014 would see more Kennedy Half Dollar Collectors Sets to commemorate its 50th anniversary. One set had High Relief Uncircluated half dollars from Philadelphia and Denver and only 150,000 were released. The second set was the Gold Kennedy Half Dollar I mentioned earlier. In the final set, each mint would release a silver half dollar with a different finish: Philadelphia had a proof finish, Denver had an uncirculated finish, San Francisco had an enhanced uncirculated finish, and West Point had a reverse proof. There were 219,000 of those sets minted.

As I write this, the 1998-S Matte Proof is still the rarest of the Kennedy Half Dollars. Shortly after they were sold 20 years ago, they were valued between $300 and $450. The value has gone down as have many Kennedy Half Dollars. Right now, it’s valued at $150, which is still more than the $59.95 I paid for the set which included the Silver Dollar Commemorative. So, that’s a plus. If you were considering getting it, now would be the time, especially with silver being low. Would you consider getting the rarest Kennedy Half Dollar?

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8 thoughts on “Rare Kennedy Half Dollar

  • Sunny

    I’ve been exploring your site here, and now you have me wanting to check my pocket change. I love the way you lay out the history of these coins. It makes me want to collect, too.

    Every once in a while I’ll get some odd coin as change for a purchase and it’s interesting to think of where that coin has been. The fact that Jackie Kennedy didn’t like how her husband looked on a coin inspired a new design is really cool. I bet she never thought that fifty cent piece would ever be worth hundreds of dollars. I think I’d buy a coin like that just to hold a part of that history. Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know what the rarest or most valuable U.S. coin is?

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment Sunny! I’m glad you like the blog and hope you do consider collecting coins. 

      Jackie Kennedy also stopped her husband’s face from being on the quarter because she wanted George Washington to stay there.

      There are a number of rare coins including the 1804 Silver Dollar, 1894-S Barber Dime and 1913 Liberty Nickel, but the most valuable US coin so far was a 1794 Silver Dollar graded at SP-66 (Specimen 66). It sold at Stack’s Bowers Auction in January 2013 for $10,016,875. A grade of 66 is excellent for a coin, seeing that a grade of 70 is a perfect coin. 

      If you do decide to start collecting coins, come back and let me know.

  • Kierra

    Hi, I enjoyed your website. I have always collected coins, & I learned alot here on your site. I never knew that the most valuable coin was the 1794 Silver Dollar. Or the story behind the Rare Kennedy Half Dollar. Very Interesting. I enjoyed the supplies you offered & showed how to be successful collecting coins.

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment Kierra! I’m glad you enjoyed viewing my site. It’s always nice to hear from someone who collects coins. Come back again!

  • Lulu Hoffman

    I really enjoy your writing and appreciate the information! You said in this article that “1970 was the last year that half dollar had 40% silver (not including the 1976 bicentennial)”. Are you saying that the Bicentennial coins have silver in them, or is that only for proof coins for that year? Thanks for any info you can provide.

    • Kevin Post author

      Silver Bicentennial coins were only released in collector sets, not in circulation. In fact the 1970-D Kennedy Half Dollar was only released in Mint Sets. So the 1969-D was the last US silver coin in circulation. Thanks for the comment Lulu!

  • Minda

    Do you know of an error on Kennedy’s 1974 half dollar coin, imprinted in a perfect circle that covers his ear up to his face and almost to the eye.

    • Kevin Post author

      The common error for a 1974 Half Dollar is from the Denver mint showing a double die like the one I have. You can see it on the “RUS” of the word TRUST. In terms of a circle covering part of the face, I have not heard of personally. However, it seems that there are many different errors out there. It could be an error or just worn down. You would probably need to have a coin dealer look at it. I hope you found an error coin.