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January 6, 1964

 

Numismatic News provided in-depth coverage on some of the most important moments in numismatic history. This except, from January of 1964, covers the passing of the bill to feature the likeness of President John F. Kennedy on the half-dollar coin, less than three months after his death.

Johnson Signs Bill For Kennedy Half-Dollar

Passes House by Record Vote of 352 to 6

Washington (NN) – The Treasury supported bill to provide a coin with the likeness of President Kennedy passed both the House and the Senate by record votes. The bill, know as HR 9413 read as follows:

“Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that in lieu of the coinage of the 50-cent piece known as the Franklin half-dollar, there shall be coined a silver 50-cent piece which shall bear on one side of the likeness of the late President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and on the other side an appropriate design to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury.”

President Johnson signed the bill into law during the Christmas recess.

The committee on Banking and Currency to whom the bill for the coinage was referred to had previously reported favorably on the bill and without amendment had urged its passing. Reporting on the purpose of the bill the committee noted:

Purpose of the Bill

The purpose of the H.R. 9413 is to honor the memory of the late President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

On December 10, 1963 President Johnson sent a message to Congress requesting this legislation, saying:

“I strongly recommend the enactment of this proposed legislation at the earliest possible date in order that the likeness of President Kennedy will appear on the 50-cent coins issued at the beginning of the calendar year 1964.”

H.R. 9413, introduced on the same day by the chairman of your committee, is the same as the legislation proposed by President Johnson’s message.

The committee concurs with the view that the bill should be enacted speedily, in order that 50-cent coins issued at the beginning of the calendar year bear the likeness of President Kennedy.

The bill directs that there shall be coined a 50-cent piece which shall bear on one side the likeness of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and on the other side an appropriate design to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury.

The consent of the Congress is required to make this change in view of the provisions of section 3510 of the Revised Statutes, as amended (31 U.S.C. 276), which provides that no change in the design of a coin shall be made oftener that once in 25 years. The present design was adopted in 1948.

It should be said that since President Kennedy’s death the committee has received a large number of communications from citizens urging that a coin of one denomination or another be minted to bear the likeness of the late President, and many Members of the House, including members of the committee, have introduced bills or resolutions for this purpose. The committee considered and adopted H.R. 9413 in order to carry out the request of President Johnson.

Coins of lesser denominations that the 50-cent piece currently being minted all bear likeness of former Presidents. In contrast, the current 50-cent piece carries the likeness of Benjamin Franklin; and the last minted silver dollar carries the image of a woman’s head symbolizing “Liberty.”

Mint officials had asked for the speedy passage of the bill, in order that they could be turning out the Kennedy coins by Jan 1. There is a shortage of half dollar, and if some Franklin coins were minted in early 1964, coin collectors would take them out of circulation increasing the shortage.