The Kennedy half dollar was first produced in 1964 to commemorate the assassinated president, John F. Kennedy. In 2001, production for general circulation came to an end, with just a few coins produced each year for collectors.
That was the position until 2021, when the coins were once more produced for general circulation. And they’re still being made today.
But are any of them valuable? That’s what we’re going to find out! Follow us, as we search out the most valuable Kennedy half dollar ever sold …
Most Valuable Kennedy Half Dollar
One look at this coin shows you it’s decidedly odd. Kennedy’s head is squashed right up against the top rim. And at the bottom, the date barely fits onto the coin.
This unusual appearance is the result of a rare error at the San Francisco mint that produced the coin. Instead of a planchet – a metal disc – for a half dollar, one for a quarter was used instead.
That’s even more surprising, as this is a proof coin – one supposed to be of superior quality and produced for collectors. Proofs should be inspected before leaving the mint. This one, though, was evidently overlooked.
Because errors like this are so infrequent, the resulting coins are very collectable. This 1970 Kennedy half dollar sold for $7,475 when it came to auction in January 2007.
This coin from 1965 is one of the highest quality examples of a Kennedy half dollar minted that year. It’s graded MS67 by the PCGS – the Professional Coin Grading Service.
The “MS” stands for “mint state”, meaning a coin that has never been circulated. The number relates to the quality and condition of the individual coin. The higher the number, the better the quality, with 70 being the highest.
A coin rated MS67+ will have a full, clear strike, with good luster. It may have up to four small marks, or one larger one. And those marks will be away from the design, so they don’t detract from the beauty of the coin.
This example also had unusual coloration, with rainbow iridescence along one edge on both sides.
The MS67+ rating was the highest ever awarded by the PCGS to a 1965 Kennedy half dollar. Only three coins have achieved that credit, making this a very desirable specimen for collectors.
This one sold at auction in August 2021, with a winning bid of $9,000.
The Type 2 Kennedy dollar is one that’s silver clad. It dates from 1964 and it’s a proof coin. And it achieved the highest possible grading of PR70 from the PCGS.
But because the coin was produced to mark Kennedy’s assassination, its historical importance was clear from the outset. Collectors snapped up proofs and kept them in perfect condition, expecting their value to appreciate over time.
As a result, 1964 proof coins aren’t as rare as some others. And although this example is the highest possible grading of 70, a total of 29 coins share that honor. So while this is a beautiful and interesting coin, it isn’t scarce enough to command a huge price.
Even so, it fetched a none-too-shabby $9,400 when it came under the auctioneer’s hammer in December 2013.
This 1971 half dollar, minted in San Francisco, is another proof coin. It’s graded PR69 by the PCGS, meaning it’s near perfect quality. And it was also given the prestigious designation of “ultra cameo”.
Ultra cameos – often also described as “deep cameos” – are used to highlight particularly high qualities of proof coin. The term is used for coins that have heavier levels of frosting – a matte or sandblasted appearance – on the higher parts of the design.
Those frosted areas contrast with reflective fields to create a pleasing visual effect. And ultra cameos have more of this frosting than cameos.
That means this particular example is a very high quality proof. But again, there are more than a handful of them in existence. While no finer examples are known about, there are 82 coins graded PR69 ultra cameo.
So while this is a valuable coin, it isn’t one of a kind. Nevertheless, it made a creditable $12,000 when it was sold at auction in June 2019.
The highest prices for coins have traditionally been achieved by specialist auctioneers. Names like Stack’s and Bowers and Heritage Auctions dominate auction records. But that’s changing. And today, some record prices have been set on online-only auction sites.
That was the case for this 1964 Kennedy half dollar, graded an impressive MS68 by the PCGS. It was offered for sale on eBay in May 2019.
The winning bidder paid a final price of $12,500. And unlike traditional auction houses, there was no buyer’s premium to add to the total.
Between 1965 and 1967, the government issued Special Mint Sets (SMS) to collectors. Although these were supposed to be better than standard issue coins, the quality was generally not great.
Cameos or deep cameos from these years are hard to find. So when one appears, it’s very collectable.
Of the three years, deep cameos from 1965 are the rarest. And the grading of this one, MS67, is the highest awarded. It shares that honor with another seven coins.
It came up for auction in January 2008 and sold for $12,650.
Between 1964 and 1970, Kennedy half dollars were made of 40 per cent silver. That changed in 1971, when they were replaced with copper clad in nickel.
This coin is another example of a mint error. Somehow, one of the 40 per cent silver planchets used for the 1970 coins was fed into the machine producing 1971 coins. That makes it very unusual, and hence attractive to collectors.
The coin was certified MS61 by the Numismatic Guaranty Company, or NGC. That’s pretty good quality, but not top notch. But the rarity of the mint error that produced it was what propelled it to an impressive auction result.
It sold on eBay in April 2018, with the winning bidder paying $13,000 to add it to their collection.
This 1969 Kennedy half dollar was minted in Denver. It was part of a registry set – a slab of coins certified together by the NGC. It achieved a grading of MS67*, putting it in the top rank of 1969 Denver Kennedy half dollars.
Only five such coins are known to exist, and none in finer quality have ever been found. For the collector looking to compile a complete set, then, this is a desirable piece.
It also carries distinctive coloration. Yellow, green, blue and violet toning forms concentric circles on both sides.
It sold through the specialist auctioneers Heritage Auctions in June 2019. The final price, including the buyer’s premium, was $15,600.
1966 was another year in which few of the highest quality coins were produced through Special Mint Series. That makes a deep cameo like this one an elusive and desirable find.
It earned its designation by the deep frosting on the raised devices, and the smooth mirror-like shine of the fields.
It was such a good example, in fact, that it was photographed for a reference book. You can find a picture of it on page 243 of Tomaska’s Whitman half dollar reference guide.
At MS68, it’s a top-quality coin. Only five of the same standard are known to exist, with none finer. When it came to auction in January 2016, determined bidders pushed the final price to $16,450.
The 1964 Kennedy half dollar had a sub-type with heavily accented strands of hair. And there are few ultra cameos of this kind to be found.
That makes this proof coin, graded PR68, a rare object – and catnip for collectors. It has a deep contrast between the frosted raised areas and mirror-like fields. It is one of 10 coins known to exist at this grade. And there are two in finer condition.
It was put up for sale in January 2017 and sold for just shy of $20,000.
This is another case where a coin’s value relates directly to its condition. 1968 Kennedy half dollars minted in San Francisco are far from rare. But finding one in perfect condition is another matter entirely.
This specimen is the top of the tree when it comes to quality and condition. It’s a proof coin, graded a perfect 70 by the PCGS. And it has the sought-after deep cameo designation into the bargain.
It came up for auction in November 2017. And it sold for an eye-watering $21,600.
This Kennedy half dollar is one of a kind. It was minted in Denver in 1964 and was graded MS – mint state – 68 by the PCGS.
It’s that quality and condition that sets it apart from other specimens. It’s the highest grade ever to be awarded to a 1964-D half dollar. And no others at the same level have ever been found.
When it came up for auction in February 2016, it was the first time it had ever been offered for sale. The pre-auction estimate was between $10,000 and $11,000. In the event, though, fierce competition between bidders pushed the price to $22,325.
This 1967 Kennedy half dollar was one of a Special Mint Set. Designed to be a cut above standard circulation, those sets were nevertheless rare in the highest qualities. That makes this coin, graded a near-perfect 69 by the NGC, very desirable to collectors.
It’s also the sole example of this year’s coin in this condition. If you’re looking for a 1967 Kennedy half dollar, this is the absolute best specimen you’ll find.
It was sold through Heritage Auctions in January 2019. The final hammer price, including buyer’s premium, was $32,000.
This Special Mint Series coin was produced in 1964. It is the rarest in the whole series of Kennedy half dollars. And its quality and condition were graded 67 by the PCGS.
SMS coins from this year were produced using a planchet that was 90 per cent silver. And they were made using a single pair of dies, showing much greater detail than regular coins.
This is one of only about a dozen specimens known to exist. It came up for auction in April 2019, three years after another of the dozen had sold for $47,000.
Demand, it appeared, had rocketed in the intervening period. This coin sold for an astonishing $108,000.
The most expensive Kennedy half dollar ever sold is this 1964 Special Mint Series coin. As we’ve already seen, this is the rarest of the whole half dollar series.
This one was graded at SP68, one of only five of that quality known to exist. That’s a point higher than the version that sold for six figures in April 2019. So when it was presented for auction at Stack’s and Bowers in August the same year, anticipation was high.
The competition between bidders was just as intensive as expected. When the auctioneer’s hammer finally fell, the winning bid was an astonishing $156,000.
The PCGS have, however, certified one 1964 SMS half dollar SP69. So look out for a new record if and when that comes to market.
Condition is Everything
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the most valuable Kennedy half dollar ever sold! With these relatively modern coins, condition is everything.
That makes the role of coin graders extremely important. One point’s difference in certification can make a difference of thousands of dollars to the price achieved at auction.
So if you have a Kennedy half dollar in excellent condition, maybe it’s time to get it appraised. You never know – you could be sitting on a fortune!