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Rare Kennedy Half Dollar Sold for Record Price

April 29, 2019 0 Comments

In a few short years – by 2023 – it will be 60 years since the assassination of President Kennedy. That anniversary is sure to see renewed interest in the tragic shooting, and that interest was probably reflected in the recent record sale of an original Kennedy half-dollar. The sale took place on April 25, 2019, at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois. Heritage Auctions shattered it previous record for such a coin, with it selling for $108,000, compared to the previous record of just $47,000, which happened quite recently, in 2016. With that sort of price rise, some people obviously think that interest in 2023 will be significantly higher – or maybe the buyer just badly wanted to own an historically interesting coin.

Within hours of Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963, plans were being made to commemorate him on a coin. The choice of the half-dollar was made by Jacqueline Kennedy, as it involved displacing Benjamin Franklin from that coin, whereas she was unwilling to displace George Washington from the quarter. Short of time for a design, the Mint used existing ones from a Kennedy medal, created by Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, for the obverse (heads), and one by Frank Gasparro, the assistant Mint Engraver at the time, for the reverse. Only slight modifications were made. Congress approved the coin on December 30, and by January 2, 1964 the first dies were completed. Ceremonial first strikes were held at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints on February 11.

The first public release was on March 24, 1964, and the 70,000 coins were sold by the end of the day, with no sign of the line reducing. The Mint kept increasing its output, and in the end 430 million coins with the 1964 date were struck. They were collected not just in America, but around the world, a reflection of the global regard there was for the ‘President of Camelot’.

There was a more pecuniary motive too, because the coins were 90% silver, and the price of that precious metal was rising at the time. The number of half-dollars being struck depleted the Mint’s silver reserves, pushing the price up further, and by 1965 action had to be taken. On June 3, 1965, the half dollar was changed from 90% silver to 40%, and the silver dime and quarter were replaced by coins with a copper core and copper-nickel cladding. By 1971 the silver was eliminated completely from circulation strikings, although since 1992 proofs in 90% silver have been struck, and in 2014, for the 50th anniversary, a 99.99% gold version was struck.

Because the price of silver was so high, almost all the coins in that 1964 striking were melted down, which explains the high value of the coin sold in April. It was also a mint set coin, so the striking was of an extremely high quality, and the special satin finish also enhances this particular coin. Both the seller and buyer have chosen to remain anonymous, at least for the time being.

This sale is sure to have collectors checking their collections for 1964 Kennedy half-dollars, and it will certainly keep the remaining coins in the hands of collectors – and safe from the crucible.

Filed in: Informative, News

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