Written by: Bob Jacques
This article first appeared in the magazine Hartselle Living, published in Hartselle, Ala. Reprinted here with the author's permission.
A little known annual event, National Coin Week, is sponsored by the American Numismatic Association of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The ANA was chartered by Congress in 1912 and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people to study and collect money and related items.
This year National Coin Week will be observed April 20-26, and the theme is "Coin & Country: Celebrating Civic Service" and the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar.
In President Kennedy's inaugural address, he inspired all of us to recognize the importance of civic action and public service. The President said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." These words were a challenge for each of us to do something for the public good.
Shortly after the popular young president was assassinated on November 22, 1963, there were demands on Congress to honor him on a coin. The quarter and half dollar were under consideration. It was decided by the end of December 1963 to honor President Kennedy on the half dollar, the largest coin in circulation.
The designer of the obverse, was Gilroy Roberts, who was a sculptor for the U.S. Mint. Roberts used the portrait he had designed for a presidential medal to be used for the new half dollar.
The reverse was designed by Roberts' assistant Frank Gasparro, who also was a sculptor at the U.S. Mint. The reverse design is based on the presidential seal and has a field of 50 stars in a circle around the eagle. This coin has more stars than any other circulating coin.
The late President's widow, Jacqueline, and his brother, Bobby, both approved the design for the new coin.
By January 30, 1964, the U.S. Mints in Denver and Philadelphia began striking the new half dollar in 90 percent silver. Pictures of the new half dollar were printed in all the newspapers and the public was eager to own one when they became available.
Finally, it was announced by the U.S. Mint that banks would release the new coins to the public on March 24, 1964. People stood in long lines waiting for the banks to open with some lines extending around several blocks.
Eager citizens exhausted the supply of half dollars on the first day and many had to wait until the Mint could produce more coins. The Mint output for 1964 half dollars was a total of $429 million coins from both mints.
From 1965 through 1970 the half dollars were minted in 40 percent silver. After 1970 they were made with new clad construction consisting of a copper core sandwiched between a copper nickel alloy.
Kennedy half dollars were last struck for circulation in 2002. After 2002, the Kennedy half dollars are being minted only for collectors and must be purchased directly from the U.S. Mint. Today there are very few half dollars in circulation.
To recognize the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar, a special exhibit will be on display at Bank Independent in Hartselle from April 21-25 during regular business hours.
According to Bank Independent Vice President David Burleson, "We are proud to host this exhibit honoring 50 years of the Kennedy Half Dollar during National Coin Week."
A special drawing will be held on Friday at 3 p.m. and three winners will receive a genuine 1964 Proof Kennedy Half Dollar. A proof coin is made from highly polished dies and it gives the coin a mirror-like finish. Proof coins are highly prized coins by collectors. Anyone can enter the drawing by filling out an entry card and placing it in the provided box. Any duplicate entries will disqualify a winner.
To commemorate this 50-year milestone for the Kennedy Half Dollar, the U.S. Mint announced it will make a double-dated half dollar in .999 pure gold for collectors. Each coin will bear the dates 1964-2014. The price has not been set as of the deadline of this publication.
Be sure to register at Bank Independent for an opportunity to win a proof 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar.