At the time of President John F. Kennedy's death in 1963, all United States Coinage carried the likenesses of presidents with the exception of the half dollar. Coincidentally, there was much public interest in honoring the memory of the late president on a coin. Thus, the half dollar was chosen, and an act of Congress replaced the 15 year-old half dollar likeness of Benjamin Franklin with President Kennedy on the coin in 1964.

At its inception, the Kennedy Half Dollar was composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, and weighed 12.5 grams. The composition was changed in 1965, modified to contain a core composed of 21% silver and 79% copper, covered by a shell composed of 80% silver and 20% copper. The weight of the coin with the newer composition was reduced to 11.34 grams. The coin is 30.66 millimeters in diameter.

The obverse of the coin, designed by Gilroy Roberts, features the likeness of President Kennedy facing left. The word LIBERTY arcs along the top half of the obverse, with the mint year across the bottom. The pharase IN GOD WE TRUST is split across Kennedy's neck. Any applicable mint mark will appear just above and dead-center in relation to the mint year on coins minted after 1968. Prior to 1968, the mark was found on the reverse above the L and the F in the word HALF.

In contrast to the relatively simple obverse, the reverse is an interpretation of The Seal of The President of The United States. Designed by Frank Gasparro, the reverse features an eagle with outstretched wings, holding an olive branch in its right claw, and thirteen arrows in its left. Fifty stars border the picture of the eagle, while a ribbon bearing the phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM appears just above its head, the tail of which is clenched in the eagle's beak. Thirteen additional stars appear above the eagle, with nine above its head, and four to the right. A shield is superimposed across the eagle's breast. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arcs along the top, and the words HALF DOLLAR across the bottom.

The reverse was modified for the United States bicentennial in 1976, and featured an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. These bicentennial coins also displayed the date on the obverse as 1776-1976. This was the only design change ever adoped on this coin. The classic design returned in 1977, and is still minted today.


United States Coinage

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