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What are the rare Kennedy halves?

I just had an e-mail asking me what are the rare years of the Kennedy half dollar.
I have been aware of the series since its very beginning with its roots in a national tragedy.

On black and white television I watched the funeral cortege of the assassinated president. I saw the assassination of the assassin on TV as well.

I was a kid, but I was ill, so I probably napped through a great deal, but I saw enough to remember and to be motivated to stand in line when the Kennedy half dollars were released the following March.

The coins I got for my brother and me are significant, but they are not rare.

With the benefit of nearly 50 years of watching each coin issued year by year, it is hard for me to say that any of them are rare.

There was talk of abolishing the 50-cent denomination almost as soon as the national remembrance period ended and the practicalities of a denomination that was rarely used became the focus of some.

The half dollar obviously was not abolished, but in the 1980s and 1990s I used to get calls early in the year from the same person asking the same question: “Are they going to make half dollars this year?”

What are the rare ones?

For me it is easy to cite the issues of 1970 and 1987 that were made only for uncirculated coin sets, but current prices don’t make them seem rare.

There was a silver version in a matte finish sold with the Bobby Kennedy commemorative dollar in 1998. It has the highest price in grades generally accessible to most collectors.

Then you can run through whatever listings you can find for MS-69 and MS-70 pieces and see how that would change your mind.

While I know those ultra grades exist, they don’t quite seem like the same coin that I stood in a line at a bank to obtain back in 1964.

What are the rare ones?

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3 Responses to What are the rare Kennedy halves?

  1. Wesley says:

    As someone who has searched through a good (but not huge) number of Kennedy halves, I would have to suggest that the 1982 and 1983’s are among the more rare. Certainly not overly rare by value or mintage numbers, but as a matter of trying to find them in general circulation. The small amount of searching I did at a coin show last year seemed to indicate the same.

    I’m theorizing that a lot of it is the fact that they were not released in uncirculated sets. Since the Red Book only lists MS-65 (or similar) and a high price, I wonder if people have hoarded circulated ones thinking they are worth more, when they probably aren’t.

  2. Jerome Curtis Watts says:

    This is a great question, "What are the rare years of the JFK half?"

    Dave points out the (early) years where circulation coins were not minted…where the halves appeared only in the mint sets (1970D = 2,038,134) and the 1987 P/D (2,890,758).

    Dave also pointed out that there are "grade rarities" and there is a Matte Proof 1998S Commerative Half (63,350).

    Wesley points out the 1982 P/D and 1982 P/D halves for which there were no mint sets issued in those years. They certainly deserve our focus (for those wanting a mint state collection).

    We have the proof issues and the lowest on record (to date) is the 2008 set with sales of 1,405,674.

    We also have the silver proof issues and the lowest on record (to date) is the 1995 at 679,985.

    But we also have the satin finish years…and the lowest on record (to date) is the 2008 at 745,464.

    Then we come to the bag & roll years…and I’m wondering if we should use the production figures (2008 P/D = 1,700,000) or the sales figures (2007 P/D = 1,305,480).

    We still haven’t addressed the varieties…like the "spiked hair" and those with and without the designer’s initials.

    Seems like there isn’t a simple answer. May you save and preserve that future collectors will hold in high demand in the years to come!

  3. Vachon says:

    I would venture that no Kennedy half dollars are rare by any of the standards used for coin collecting. The coins sell for a (slight) premium in uncirculated grades only. I would think it is safe to argue that if no coins in the series sell for a premium in circulated grades, then none of the coins in that series could be thought of as having value from a rarity standpoint. Even the lowest mintage Kennedys are common as they are either hoarded or otherwise unspent/unused.

    I give them out in change but just because I can successfully put about 1500 pieces "into circulation" annually does not mean they are actually circulating. Thus they don’t wear down, don’t get used up, and don’t get retired.

    In terms of roll searching, the hardest to come across are the ones made 2002-present, 1987-P&D, and 1970-D. 1978 and 1982 are fairly uncommon but do turn up.

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