The half dollar was once the most popular circulating coin in American commerce. Its purchasing power through much of the early 20th century was the equivalent of $8-12 today. Take a look at older circulating coinage and you’ll find that half dollars are often the most worn, with features and dates worn down and reeding on the edges worn smooth. But the half dollar was eventually forced out of regular usage by a triple whammy: rising silver prices, inflation of the dollar, and the assassination of President Kennedy.
Rising silver prices in the early 1960s meant that silver coins, which had long had a legal tender face value higher than their silver value, now had a silver value higher than their face value. That led to them being hoarded by consumers who understood that it was better to spend paper money, receive silver in change, and then hoard that silver. Many people even went so far as to melt that silver down and sell it. That resulted in severe coinage shortages in the 1960s that forced the mint to drastically increase its mintage of silver coins, and eventually in 1965 to replace most circulating silver coinage with base metal.
Inflation had also eaten away at the half dollar, so that it’s purchasing power was the equivalent of $4 today, versus the nearly $13 equivalent of a 1913 half dollar. That 2/3 reduction in purchasing power helped spur the use of paper money rather than coins.
Finally, after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 the US Mint made plans to honor Kennedy by putting him on the half dollar. The JFK half dollar immediately became one of the most popular coins in the country in terms of demand, although they were hoarded as souvenirs, collector’s items, and for their silver content rather than circulating in commerce as inteded. 1964-dated JFK halves were minted into 1965, with the initial planned run of 91 million coins increasing to over 430 million coins.
By mid-1965 it was clear that silver coinage would just continue to be hoarded, so the US government changed the silver content of the Kennedy half to 40% silver, which continued through 1970. But the damage had already been done and the half dollar as a circulating coin was more or less dead. In 1971 the Kennedy half dollar finally adopted the cupronickel alloy used by most other circulating coins. Because the silver Kennedy half dollars largely did not circulate in commerce, they are found in much better condition than most other American half dollars.
Unfortunately the JFK half dollar is not eligible for investment through a silver or precious metals IRA. Only modern gold and silver bullion coins are eligible for IRA investment. But if you want to own a piece of American history that hearkens back to the time silver half dollars still were used as money, the JFK half dollar is a very good choice.
- 1964: 90% silver
- 1965-1970: 40% silver
- 1964: 12.50 g
- 1965-1970: 11.50 g
- 1964: 0.36169 troy oz.
- 1965-1970: 0.1479 troy oz.