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1964 Kennedy Half Dollar History

November 9, 2015 0 Comments

In 1964, the Kennedy Half Dollar was minted to commemorate the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. The coin was authorized by Congress to be minted in just over a month after his death – an extremely fast turnaround for a new coin to be introduced. The United States Mint used existing works of Kennedy’s likeness from sculptors Gilroy Roberts and Frank Gasparrow. This allowed for the dies to be created quickly and striking of the coins began in January of 1964.

1964kennedyhalfdollar

Quick Inception

Within hours of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Director of the United States Mint Eva Adams, contacted Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts to inform him that serious consideration was being given to have Kennedy depicted on a large silver coin; either the silver dollar, half dollar, or quarter. While it may be surprising that the Mint acted so quickly, bear in mind that this type of tragedy had never been seen in the modern coin era. The last assassination was President Lincoln in 1865, just after the San Fransisco Mint opened and before the Carson City Mint and Denver Mint were even operational. After 5 days, the decision was made to have John F. Kennedy replace Benjamin Franklin on the half dollar. To aid in the decision, the Mint reached out to the late president’s window, Jacqueline Kennedy and she preferred the half dollar as she did not want to replace George Washington on the quarter.

Popular Release

Two months after the decision was made to produce the coins, the U.S. Mint released the Kennedy Half Dollar for sale on March 24, 1964. 70,000 coins were initially allotted for public sale with a limit of 40 per customer. The night prior to the initial release a line had formed around the building, 1 block long. By the end of the day the coins had sold out and the line had not abated. Banks throughout the region quickly had to ration supplies because of the popularity, but still sold out by noon that day.

Throughout the year the Mint had struck huge amounts of Kennedy Half Dollars to meet the overwhelming demand. Initially, the Treasury had planned to create 91 million coins in 1964. But even with that amount struck there were very few Kennedy’s in circulation as the majority of people were hoarding the coins. The popularity forced the Treasury to increase that number to 141 million coins. Even with that announcement that there would be millions more created, the public still did not spend their Kennedy’s – they instead chose to keep them. Within 8 months, the Treasury had produced 160 million Kennedy Half Dollars and still the coin was almost never seen in circulation. This is attributed to a rise in silver prices as well as hoarding of the coins. To hopefully counteract this speculation in the coins, the Treasury requested and received authorization to continue striking 1964-dated coins into 1965. When it was all said and done, The Treasury struck almost 430 million Kennedy Half Dollars dated 1964 – this was more than all of the Franklin Half Dollars ever struck throughout its 16 years in circulation.

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