The Kennedy half dollar, first minted in 1964, is a fifty-cent coin currently issued by the United States Mint. Intended as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, it was authorized by Congress just over a month after his death. Use of existing works by Mint sculptors Gilroy Roberts and Frank Gasparro allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and striking of the new coins began in January 1964.
The silver coins were hoarded upon their release in March 1964 by collectors and those interested in a memento of the late president. Although the Mint greatly increased production, the denomination was seldom seen in circulation. Continued rises in the price of silver increased the hoarding—many early Kennedy half dollars have been melted for their silver content. Starting with 1965-dated pieces, the percentage of fine silver was reduced from 90% to 40% (silver clad), but even with this change the coin saw little circulation.
In 1971, when silver was eliminated entirely from the coins and production increased, the series began to see improved, but still limited circulation. A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. In 2014 a special edition of the Kennedy half dollar was also struck in 99.99% gold.
Even though ample supplies of circulating half dollars are readily available from most banks, their circulation is still limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been struck to satisfy the demand from collectors, and are available at a premium through the Mint.