Why Are 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars Rare?

1964 Kennedy half dollar coins became rare due to the circumstances that led to their creation—the president's death—and because they were the last 90% silver half dollars minted for circulation.

A critical moment in American history was President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination in Dallas, TX, on November 11, 1963. The outpouring of grief resulted in many monuments and memorials, including the design of a new half dollar.

Birthed from a presidential legacy that was cut short, the commemorative coins in the Kennedy half dollar series are coveted in the coin collecting community. They have high collector demand in part due to their historical significance. Understanding what makes the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar a rare collectible coin is important knowledge when considering buying or selling it.

In this guide, we walk through what makes these rare half dollars and what’s important to know about them.

1964 kennedy half ms66 small

1964 Kennedy Half Dollar. Graded MS66+ by PCGS. On the front, Kennedy’s profile, and on the back the Presidential Seal.

4 Key Reasons Why 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars Are Rare

More than 429 million 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars were minted, including the 1964-D halves struck at the Denver Mint. Millions of these silver half dollars remain unaccounted for. There are many reasons that the 1964 Kennedy half dollar is rare.

Reason #1: Kennedy Half Dollars Were Bought and Saved as Mementos

JFK was an extremely popular President, both in the US and abroad (especially in West Germany.) Millions of 1964 Kennedy halves were purchased as mementos. Many of these were kept for years or decades as a reminder of Kennedy.

Reason #2: The Original Buyer Craze Was Based on Speculation

Speculators snapped up as many 1964 Kennedy half dollars as possible to sell at a premium to a clamoring public. These people were more likely to hold on to them (see point #1.)

Reason #3: Coin Owners Hoarded Them For Silver Content

The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar was the last year half dollars would be made from 90% silver. The quarter and dime went to a base metal composition in 1965, but the Kennedy Half retained 40% silver content from 1965 through 1970.

The 90% silver content and large size made the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars more attractive to “silver stackers” than the later dates with less than half the silver. This meant that millions of 1964 halves ended up being held solely for the value of their silver.

Reason #4: Many People Melted Their Coins Causing a Shortage

The silver coin shortage of the early 1960s was caused by the rising price of silver. When silver prices spiked to all-time highs in the 1970s, hoarded silver coins of all types were melted down. This included untold millions of 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars.

Why the Value of 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars Can Be So High

Kennedy Half Dollars are still popular among coin collectors. The prices for 1964 Kennedys are supported both by being the first year of issue and from a supply reduced by millions being melted or hoarded for their silver content.

The most valuable coins are uncirculated ones that earn the highest “Mint State” ratings from certified coin grading services. Mint State or Mint Condition (aka uncirculated) coins are graded from MS60 to MS70. See below for a comparison:

kennedy grades

kennedy grades

Did You Know? Coins are graded on a 70-point scale, where 1 is so worn as to be almost unidentifiable, and 70 is perfect, with no damage or blemishes visible even under magnification.

These are the average prices for the best quality 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars:

1964 Kennedy Half Dollar
MINTAGE: 273,304,004


1964-D Kennedy Half Dollar
MINTAGE: 156,205,446


*only one known at this grade

The 7 Major 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Varieties & What You Need to Know About Them

There are varieties of 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars that are more collectable than regular ones due to unintentional changes to the coin die. Some of the major varieties are:

  1. 1964 Accented Hair (Proof)
  2. 1964 DDO
  3. 1964 DDR
  4. 1964-D/D
  5. 1964-D DDO
  6. 1964-D TDO
  7. 1964-D QDO

1964 “Accented Hair” Kennedy Half Dollar

There is one particular variety that was caused by an intentional design change. The initial design of the 1964 proof Kennedy Half Dollar had deeper hair detail. JFK’s hair and Kennedy’s neck are both noticeably deeper. President Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, ordered the design changed to make the hair details shallower.

An unknown number of the “Accented Hair” proofs had already been struck. They were simply used alongside the modified design. The change in this detail was not considered a separate type but was included in the total proof mintage.

Prices for Uncirculated 1964 “Accented Hair” Kennedy Half Dollars range from $30 to $165.

kennedy accented hair

You can clearly compare the accented hair versus normal business strike.

1964 Doubled Die Obverse (DDO)

Coin dies are made from hardened steel, which is heated, then struck multiple times to produce a complete image.

The 1964 DDO Kennedy Half was struck with an obverse die that had shifted slightly between strikes when it was being made. The doubled design was transferred to every coin made with that die. Prices for uncirculated 1964 DDO Kennedy Halves range from $16 to $300.

1964 Doubled Die Reverse (DDR)

The 1964 DDR Kennedy Half is much like the DDO, except with the reverse die. Prices for uncirculated 1964 DDR Kennedy Halves range from $100 to $700.

Denver Mint 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Varieties

The Denver Mint was the first US Mint to strike 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars, beginning on January 30th. Perhaps it was the rush to get the dies shipped to Denver that resulted in so many varieties of the 1964-D Kennedys. Two of these errors were the almost unheard-of Triple strike and Quadruple strike obverses.


Mintmarks were hand-punched on US coin dies until the 1990s. Often, an incomplete strike required another blow of the hammer. When the handheld punch moved before the second strike, a Repunched Mint Mark (RPM) resulted. Prices for uncirculated 1964-D/D Kennedy Halves range from $40 to $1,450.

1964-D DDO

This is a 1964-D Kennedy Half with a doubled die obverse. This is a common type of variety in coins made in the mid-20th century and earlier. The DDO on the 1964-D Kennedy is subtle and best seen on the R of Liberty on the top of the obverse. Prices for uncirculated 1964-D DDO Kennedy Halves range from $30 to $800.

1964-D TDO

The 1964-D Tripled Die Obverse is a rare die variety. Prices for uncirculated versions range from $32 to $165. The lower top end for this variety compared to some of the others is attributable to the highest grade being an MS65.

1964-D QDO

The 1964-D Quadrupled Die Obverse is an esoteric variety that is seldom seen on any coin. Prices for uncirculated 1964-D QDOs range from $40 to $1,450.

A Brief History of the Kennedy Half Dollar Series

Within hours of Kennedy’s assassination, the US Mint began working on a coin design to honor the beloved president. Congress passed a special resolution on December 30, 1963, to replace Benjamin Franklin on the half dollar with President Kennedy’s profile.

Certain that Congress would approve the fifty-cent coin, the US Mint had already engraved the first coin dies. The United States Mint began production of business strike Kennedy half-dollars in February 1964. The first ones were released to the public on March 24, 1964, igniting a public frenzy.

If you like this format and want to learn more about other coins with high collector demand, check out these blogs:

  • Indian Head Cent
  • Jefferson Nickel
  • Buffalo Nickel
  • Silver Eagles
  • For more coin facts, history, and information on value for buying and selling, check out the Gainseville Coins blog.

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    Steven Cochran

    Steven Cochran

    Precious Metals Market Analyst | BS University of South Florida (2002)

    A published writer, Steven's coverage of precious metals goes beyond the daily news to explain how ancillary factors affect the market.

    Steven specializes in market analysis with an emphasis on stocks, corporate bonds, and government debt.