If the 1965 Kennedy half dollar was a person, it would definitely be the poor stepchild of the family. Unlike the wildly popular 1964 Kennedy half, this younger sibling was not well liked by anyone.
Little could have been done to prevent this situation. There was going to be a decrease in demand under any circumstance. The 1964 Kennedy half dollar was something special, having been released while memories of the President’s assassination were still fresh in everyone’s mind.
In fact, to many, it had been something of a final closure on a great national tragedy. People stood in lines for hours to get the first 1964 half dollars, and they cried when they looked at the coin. Demand all over the world was real as well. Coins were bringing $5 each in the streets of Europe and double face value in poor Third World countries.
No coin could compare to the 1964 Kennedy half. Hopefully there will never be another that has such an impact, as the death of John F. Kennedy is the sort of national trauma no one wants to repeat.
The popularity of the 1964 Kennedy half dollar unfortunately coincided with the beginning of a national coin shortage. Demand for the coin had been enormous, with over 433 million produced at Denver and Philadelphia. The worsening shortage was promptly blamed on the evil coin collectors sitting on all the coins.
The situation got worse in 1965, when silver was removed from the quarter and dime and reduced to just 40 percent in the half dollar. Hoarding swung into high gear. People understood that the government was no longer putting silver into coins, so they wanted the coins that did contain silver, and they wanted lots of them.
Signs of official confusion were everywhere. Silver dollars had managed to fly out of the Treasury vaults in $1,000 bags. Congress authorized up to 45 million more silver dollars in August of 1964. Denver made over 300,000 the following year with a 1964 date, only to melt them.
This was the state of affairs when the 1965 Kennedy half dollar made its initial appearance. There was more missing than the 90 percent silver composition, however. In an attempt to continue spinning the national coin shortage as the fault of collectors, a decision was made to stop using mintmarks.
This simply killed collecting. The very same Kennedy half dollar that had brought premiums in 1964 was immediately a piece of junk in the minds of many collectors. At 40 percent silver and without a mintmark, no one wanted them. Few would have been saved at the time.
Before anyone gave the 1965 Kennedy half dollar a second thought, a large number of its 65,879,366 total mintage (circulated and uncirculated) had been melted. When silver went to $50 an ounce, people dumped it and other 40 percent silver dates first. It seemed like found money.
Only recently has anyone bothered to take a look at the 1965. Back in 1998, it and the other 40 percent silver Kennedy halves were priced at $2.50 or less. Had you offered to buy one, chances are good you would have made the dealer’s day.
Currently, however, it has moved to $14.50 in MS-65 condition. That is an impressive jump, especially for a coin that was almost totally ignored when it was released.
This combination of factors suggests that finding nice Mint State examples is going to be tough. That could well mean the price increases are just starting for the 1965 Kennedy half dollar.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.
• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .