What makes 1964 Kennedy half dollars so rare?

The 1964 Kennedy half dollar is one of the most sought-after coins for collectors in the United States. Minted for only a few months in 1964 before the switch was made to reduce the silver content of dimes and quarters, the 1964 Kennedy half contains 90% silver compared to the 40% silver content used in 1965 onward. This high silver content, along with the fact that comparatively few were minted before the composition change, has made the 1964 Kennedy half dollar quite valuable to collectors today.

When were 1964 Kennedy half dollars minted?

1964 marked a pivotal transition in US coinage history. That year saw the last 90% silver Kennedy half dollars produced by the US Mint before the Coinage Act of 1965 ordered the removal of silver from dimes and quarters starting in 1965. This act also reduced the silver content in half dollars from 90% to 40%.

The 1964 Kennedy half dollars were minted from January 1964 until October 1965 at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. The key is that those struck before the Coinage Act took effect in 1965 contained the 90% silver composition, making them highly desirable to collectors and investors today.

How many 1964 Kennedy half dollars contained 90% silver?

The vast majority of 1964-dated Kennedy half dollars contain the 90% silver composition, but the exact mintage quantities are:

  • Philadelphia Mint: 276,116,000
  • Denver Mint: 78,451,000

So approximately 354 million 1964 Kennedy half dollars were minted with the 90% silver content before the switch to 40% silver occurred partway through 1965.

This is a relatively low mintage compared to later years, adding to the scarcity and collectibility of the 1964 90% silver Kennedy half dollar today.

What happened in 1965 to change the Kennedy half dollar composition?

Rising silver prices in the early 1960s were causing US coinage to exceed face value as the metal content became worth more than the denomination. This led to widespread hoarding and melting down of silver coins for their metal content.

To combat this, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965 which mandated the US Mint change the composition of dimes, quarters, and half dollars partway through 1965:

  • Dimes and quarters changed from 90% silver to a copper and nickel clad composition
  • Half dollars changed from 90% to 40% silver with outer layers of copper and nickel

So any Kennedy half dollars dated 1964 with the original 90% silver composition are from the beginning of the year before this major change took place. This transition further adds to their status as important pieces of US numismatic history.

What makes the 1964 Kennedy half dollar valuable?

Here are the key factors that drive up value and demand for the 1964 Kennedy 90% silver half dollar today:

  • Scarcity – Low comparative mintage before change to 40% silver composition
  • Silver content – Last year of 90% silver half dollars vs. 40% for later years
  • Condition – Higher collector value for mint state uncirculated coins
  • Historical significance – Marked end of an era for US silver coinage
  • Strong collector demand – Kennedy half dollars are very popular with collectors

The eclectic combination of scarcity, silver content, condition, history, and collector appeal is what makes the 1964 Kennedy half dollar one of the keys to the series and a mainstay in numismatic collections.

How much are 1964 Kennedy half dollars worth?

1964 Kennedy half dollar values depend heavily on condition. Here are approximate valuations:

  • Circulated condition: $6 to $12 for a typical worn example
  • Uncirculated (mint state): $15 to $50+ depending on grade
  • Proof coin (mirror-like surface): $18 to $75+

Prices are much higher for rare specimen examples and coins certified MS65 or higher by grading services like PCGS or NGC. One important note is that any 1964 Kennedy half in worn circulated condition is still worth a significant melt value for its silver – over 10x face value or $5+ even in poor shape.

Price history and notable auction sales

Here is a brief overview of the pricing history and some top auction sales for high-grade 1964 Kennedy half dollars:

  • MS65 examples sold for around $125 in early 2000s
  • Prices crossed $500 threshold around 2010
  • MS66 coins now sell for $2,000+ and up to $5,000 for finest known
  • A single PCGS MS67 example sold for nearly $15,000 in 2015!

Demand continues to far outstrip supply for top-tier certified 1964 Kennedy half dollars, sending values still higher. This upward trend is likely to persist into the future as new collectors enter the market.

How to identify counterfeit 1964 Kennedy half dollars

With the rising value and scarcity of 1964 Kennedy halves, counterfeits and altered coins are unfortunately common. Here are tips for spotting fakes:

  • Weight – Authentic 1964 halves weigh 12.5 grams. Weigh any suspicious coins.
  • Ping test – Silver has a characteristic ring when flicked. Listen for a dull thud from fakes.
  • Magnet test – Silver is non-magnetic. Check for any magnetic attraction.
  • Details – Inspect for poor details, misshapen digits, mushy features.
  • Wear patterns – Odd wear or file marks suggest counterfeits.

Whenever possible, buy 1964 Kennedy halves graded and encapsulated by reputable third-party grading services like PCGS or NGC. This guards against counterfeits while also confirming the coin’s condition.


In summary, the 1964 90% silver Kennedy half dollar occupies a unique place in US numismatic history for the following reasons:

  • Last year of regular issue 90% silver Kennedy half dollar minting
  • Comparatively low mintage before change to 40% silver composition
  • Rising scarcity and demand driving increasing collector value into 5 and 6-figure range for rare specimens
  • Historical significance as part of the pivotal 1965 shift away from silver in US coinage

For these reasons, the 1964 Kennedy half dollar will always be avidly sought after by collectors as the final year of the original 90% silver composition. This iconic coin encapsulates a watershed moment in the evolution of US coinage.

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