Designed by: Gilroy Roberts (obverse); Frank Gasparro (reverse)
Issued Date: 1964
Composition: 0.900 parts silver, 0.100-part copper
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Weight: 117.46 grains
Total Business strike mintage: 429,509,450
Total Proof strike mintage: 3,950,962
After President John F. Kennedy’s tragic death in November 1963, Congress authorized a coin honoring him (as it had done after President Roosevelt’s death in 1945). Gilroy Roberts designed the obverse portrait of Kennedy while Frank Gasparro based his reverse design on the Presidential Coat of Arms. The 1964 Kennedy Half-Dollar was the last 90% silver half. It was also issued in a 40% silver composition from 1965 through 1970 and in a copper-nickel alloy from 1971 to the present. Proof Kennedy Halves were issued in 1964 at the Philadelphia Mint and on an annual basis at the San Francisco Mint beginning in 1968. The key date to the series is the 1970-D, which was issued only in Mint sets and was never actually circulated.
The Kennedy half dollar captured the publics imagination, and pieces sold at a premium from the very moment of release. Soon the premiums subsided, but despite mintages of hundreds of millions of coins, few were used in the channels of commerce. Subsequently, the half dollar became an obsolete denomination so far as everyday use is concerned.
Some controversy surrounds the Kennedy Half-Dollar. Gilroy Roberts, designer of the obverse, placed his very stylized initials on the truncation of Kennedy’s bust. To those with a vivid imagination these initials have an uncanny resemblance to a sickle and hammer, symbols of communist Russia. Despite some public outrage at this, the initials have not been changed.