Dr. Sol Taylor

The Vanishing JFK Halves

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, April 21, 2007

he Kennedy half dollar came on the scene in May 1964. For a few years, it was a very popular collector coin as well as a cash-register item.
    The 1964 mintage totaled more than 400 million (Philadelphia and Denver mints and 3 million proofs). The 1965-69 issues were 40 percent silver, which also made them attractive to collectors.
    Although the mintages were high, these were quickly removed from circulation in the late 1970s and 1980s due to the rapid rise in silver prices. The 1970-D and 1970-S issues were not released for circulation, and both are scarce in comparison to earlier issues. Only 2.1 million 1970-D's were issued — only in Mint sets — and 2.6 million 1970-S's, only in proof sets.
    By sorting through many rolls of half dollars recently, it is quite apparent that the more recent dates are impossible to find. The majority of halves I have seen in more than 40 rolls of half dollars were dated 1971-77.
    I found three 40-percent silver clad halves (1966 and 1967), several more bicentennial halves, and one 1964-D half dollar. Interestingly, only five of all 800-plus coins were dated 1989 or later.
    By examining the mintage data on the series, it is evident that the production of half dollars is winding down, with annual issues for circulation of 15 million to 24 million, with a single high year of 1980 with 44 million "P" mint and 33 million "D" mint coins.
    The 1987-P and 1987-D halves were only issued in mint sets, and none for circulation — 2.8 million of each. Also, since 2002, halves have been released only in mint and proof sets, with none for general circulation. In 2001, no P-mint halves were issued for circulation, and only 19 million were issued in Denver for circulation.
    Starting in 1992, special 90-percent silver halves were issued in proof sets ("S" mint). These low-mintage issues varied from 675,000 in 1995 to 3 million in 2000. These silver proof sets included the dime and quarter in 90-percent silver, along with the regular-composition cent and nickel.
    In the past, any coins with a declining mintage usually spelled the nearing of the end of the series. With so few halves actually being used in commerce, chances are the Mint may either eliminate the denomination or limit it to mint sets and proof sets, as it is doing now.
    In the meantime, collectors can fill up many of the slots in their Kennedy albums from coins in circulation. The remaining coins can be bought from most coin dealers at prices not much more than a few times face value.
    As the Kennedy half is approaching its 43rd year, chances are it may be due for a makeover, a change of face, or total elimination as a coin of the realm. Now may be as good a time as we shall see to start collecting these coins while they can still be pulled from circulation.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.