Shortly following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Congress expedited the approval of redesigning the half dollar to honor the nation?s fallen president. The first Kennedy half dollar was released in early 1964, replacing the Franklin half dollar that debuted only 16 years earlier in 1948.
The Kennedy half dollar, with the obverse designed by Gilroy Roberts and the reverse by Frank Gasparro, was an immediate hit; millions of mourning Americans jumping on the opportunity to own a "souvenir" of Kennedy for only 50 cents. This led many into thinking the Kennedy half dollar is inherently more valuable or worthy of saving than other half dollars and soon helped lead to an effective removal of the half dollar from circulation. By the early 1980s, the denomination had become virtually non-existent in day-to-day transactions, even though the half dollar remained on the lineup of business-strike circulating coinage until 2002.
No single issue of the Kennedy half dollar is rare, though any business-strike pieces grading better than MS66 or MS67 is largely regarded as a conditional rarity. There are also scarce varieties such as the 1974 doubled die obverse, 1982 no FG, and 1998-S matte finish. Several issues were made in relatively small quantities for distribution only in mint sets, including the 1970-D, 1987 Philadelphia and Denver pieces, and all made since 2002.
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