The half dollar minted in 1965 was different from its companion clad quarters and dimes. The 50-cent piece still contained some silver, continuing the tradition of silver coins. Also, the transition to a clad, silverless coin would be that much easier.
Silver content of the half dollar, according to the Coinage Act of 1965, came to 40 percent – a center core of 21 percent silver and 79 percent copper, with an outer cladding of 80 percent silver and 20 percent copper. Silver or no, many Kennedy half dollars were saved as souvenirs by people who still admired the President, who had been assassinated only a few years earlier.
The early clad half dollars, at a glance, looked as nice as the 1964 issues, with much detail on the obverse. The copper core was not as red as on the quarters and dimes. The mintage was not as high as in 1964, but 1965 half dollars were not difficult to find.
Collectors checking bank rolls for silver half dollars are rewarded with silver issues quite often, including a good number of early clads, with 40 percent silver. Many of the general public believe that all silver coinage stopped in 1964, and are not aware that the half dollars of 1965-1970 contain some silver. In my own experience, I have found a great number of1967 half dollars, on the occasion I can find rolls of halves.
The half dollars of 1970 were minted only for mint sets, none for circulation; however, I have noted a discrepancy between the figures for mint sets and the total number of half dollars made. There is a difference of 111,866 between the mintage figures for 1970 half dollars and mint sets. What became of the others? Were they melted, or quietly released? While doing research for my book, quite a few collectors who searched bank rolls reported finding 1970-D halves, more than I would guess.
Silver completely disappeared from the half dollar in 1971, and all coins since then have been struck in copper-nickel clad, except for some Bicentennial issues and special silver proofs made each year since 1992.
Slight differences appear on the half dollar throughout the years. A wide obverse rim appeared in 1971-1972, with the rim made slightly smaller from 1973-1982. Differences in the rim and the appearance of the Presidential seal can be noted.
The Bicentennial half dollars, dated 1776-1976, were made in both 1975 and 1976. The reverse depicts Independence Hall, a design similar to that used on a 1926 commemorative $2.50 gold piece. Some were struck in silver clad for collector sets, but many were made for regular circulation and are seen now and then. A local bank has 1976 half dollars in roll quantity.
Variety collectors may enjoy the clad Kennedy halves, with its doubled dies and coins lacking the designer’s initials. The 1974-D coin is probably the best known of the doubled-die halves, with the doubling visible on the obverse. Dates with the designer’s initials (FG, for Frank Gasparro) missing from the reverse include the 1971-D, 1972-D, 1982-P and D, 1983-P and 1990-P. Perhaps the best known is the 1982-P; this variety was discovered in January 1983, and about 50,000 are known. I once received one in change at a baseball game in September 1983.
Collectors interested in the Kennedy half dollar might do well to visit their local bank and acquire a few rolls of half dollars. Surprises are often found in these rolls, including old 90 percent silver coins, and even a few Franklin halves. A basic date and mintmark set of clads, dating through 2005, can be put together for face value. Half dollars made from 2006 on were made for inclusion in collector sets, but maybe a few of these can be located after some hunting. Older halves made for sets only, such as the 1970-D and 1987-P and D, can be found. I once found a 1987-D half dollar in a bank roll.
A few Kennedy half dollars may have to be purchased, such as the mint-set-only coins. Collectors who want only the finest will want to buy the proof coins made throughout the years. A proof clad half dollar can be a beautiful thing. The coins show the familiar mirror surfaces and strong strikes that appear on proof coinage. Most have low mintages, and all are attractive, especially when displayed as a set in a holder or album.
Don’t forget the Special Mint Set half dollars, made during the early clad years 1965-1967. These coins, while not proofs, were made with more care than the circulation strikes, and have a much nicer appearance, especially if one is removed from its original holder and examined. And check the 1966 SMS halves carefully – a few lack the designer’s initials on the reverse.
Kennedy half dollars are still made today and are basically sold to collectors in bags, rolls and in sets. While half dollars are rarely seen in change anymore, quite a few different dates and mintmarks can be found in bank rolls and the dedicated Kennedy half collector might be rewarded with a few surprises. Sets of these coins look lovely, and are a favorite with people who still fondly remember President John F. Kennedy.
The dollar coin depicting President Dwight D. Eisenhower appeared a few years after copper-nickel clad coins were introduced. “Ike” died on March 28, 1969; the first lunar landing took place a few months later on July 20. Both are commemorated on the large dollar coin first issued in 1971. The design is rather plain and unimaginative, with the reverse based on the patch worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts. The portrait of Eisenhower on the obverse has been criticized by those who claim the unadorned head of Ike does not convey his personality. Many people still referred to him as General Eisenhower and would have preferred to see him in military uniform.
Ike dollars were made only until 1978 – with none dated 1975 – but have a core of dedicated fans who collect by date, mintmark and variety. The dies were modified several times over the life of the series, resulting in low-relief, high-relief and improved high-relief coins.
Proof dollars were available separately in 1971 and 1972, with clad dollars included in proof sets in other years. Dollars struck in 40 percent silver were also available separately, in proof and uncirculated from the years 1971-1974. Production tailed off a bit in 1973, resulting in low mintage 40 percent silver and circulation coins. The mintages for 1974 circulation dollars was larger, with much smaller mintages for the 40 percent silver coins.
Also known are 40 percent silver dollars of 1974-D (approximately 30 known) and 1977-D (about 15 known).
Bicentennial dollars, showing a design of the Liberty Bell superimposed on the moon, were made in 1975 and 1976. These coins were struck in copper-nickel clad and silver clad, and come in two distinct varieties, with bold and delicate lettering on the reverse.
Ike dollars were only made for two more years, 1977 and 1978, giving way to a smaller dollar coin in 1979.
A set of Ike dollars can keep a collector busy, searching for varieties, and keeping an eye out for attractive coins. A selection of beautifully toned Ike dollars was displayed at a major coin show not long ago. The colors were pretty, and drew a number of collectors who may have not believed that modern clad coins could look so attractive. One collector built a set of Ike dollar errors; photos appeared in an edition of the Judd pattern book.
Other clad issues have appeared over the years: the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979 and a number of commemorative half dollars. Most were not popular with collectors, although all have their own charm and reason for collecting.
Even though silver was removed from United States dimes and quarters in 1965 and the half dollar in 1971, there is a great number of coins and sets to appeal to the collector who doesn’t follow collecting fads, who appreciates recent history and who appreciates modern clad coinage as the big part of United States numismatic history that it is. If that describes you, what are you waiting for?