Did You Know That Kennedy Half Dollars Were First Released 60 Years Ago This Week?

Sixty years ago this week, on March 24, 1964, Kennedy half dollars were released into circulation. The coins, a common sight in collections and accumulations of U.S. coins assembled in the mid-to-late-20th century, were highly sought-after at the time of their release.

U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts shared publicly that Mint Director Eva Adams contacted him very shortly after Kennedy’s assassination to inform him that “serious consideration” was being given to a new coin honoring the 35th President. On November 27, 1963, Roberts was informed that the half dollar was the denomination selected, since Jacqueline Kennedy did not want Washington’s bust on the quarter replaced. President Johnson called for legislation authorizing the coin on December 10, 1963, and he signed it into law less than three weeks later. 

Mrs. Kennedy, reviewing patterns produced shortly after President Johnson requested authorizing legislation, asked if Mint artists could “muss up” President Kennedy’s hair. The changes were applied, and new test strikes were presented to the Treasury Secretary on December 27, 1963.

The Denver Mint began producing circulation examples on January 30, 1964, the first shipments arrived at Federal Reserve Bank on March 6, and they were released March 24.   Gerald Tebben’s August 2014 Coin World cover feature on the Kennedy half dollar was very helpful in reconstructing the timeline.

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