The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar


In an earlier blog we talked about the history of the Kennedy half dollar and why it has both sentimental and real value for American coin collectors. In this blog we will talk about the most valuable issue of this coin: the 1964 Kennedy half dollar, including the rare Accented Hair variety. 

A Coin Memorial for President Kennedy

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in late November of 1963, the United States went into mourning. A month after his death, Congress authorized the creation of a half dollar coin to honor and memorialize him. This coin was quickly designed, based on a Presidential series medal that was already in existence, and the U.S. Mint struck it in early 1964, with the first coins released in March. The president’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy made one requested change in the design. She asked that his hair be slightly modified, and it was.

Many of these early coins never had the chance to circulate because of their emotional appeal as mementos of a beloved president. They sold out on the first day the mint offered them to the public and remained in closets and drawers untouched for years. Although the mint increased the numbers of this coin and produced a steady stream of them, they remained scarce. 

Part of the reason for their popularity was also their silver content. The 1964 Kennedy half dollar was 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper in composition. Due to the high silver content, they have value in addition to their numismatic value as historic coins. 

The 1964 variety of this coin is the only year that has a large majority silver content. Due to increasing silver prices, in 1965 the mint reduced the amount of silver to 40 percent, with the remaining 60 percent being copper. The later issues still look silver because they are silver plated, but they aren’t as intrinsically valuable. Despite the change, these coins remained quite popular with the public and sold well. 

The Accented Hair Variety of the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar

Because Jacqueline Kennedy requested a change to President Kennedy’s hair on the original design, there is a variety of this coin that is rare and more valuable. The Accented Hair variety in excellent condition is valued in the thousands of dollars. Only 1-2 percent of the proof sets from this year have this feature.

You can determine whether your 1964 Kennedy half dollar is the Accented Hair variety by examining the hair over the ear. President Kennedy’s face is in profile, and above the ear on the original design, the hair has a wishbone appearance. 

There are a few other identifying features on this coin. On the obverse of the coin, in an arc over Kennedy’s head is the word LIBERTY. On the left hand side of the letter I, the bottom seraph is missing. On the reverse of the coin, there is a broken ray as well. Among the rays behind the eagle are several that are broken and choppy in appearance. These are on the right hand side of the eagle among the stars.  

If you would like to purchase a 1964 Kennedy half dollar for your coin collection or would like some assistance in determining how valuable the ones in your collection are, make an appointment to talk to us today by calling 616-884-5048. We would be happy to help find a coin for you or evaluate the ones you already have. We want to be the Grand Rapids coin dealer you think of when you have a coin need. 

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