The Slow Decline of the Half Dollar Denomination

April 13th, 2012  |  Published in Circulating Coins

The slow decent of the usage of the half dollar denomination within circulation can be seen by the declining mintage figures for the latest series to bear the mantle. Launched in 1964, the Kennedy Half Dollar was originally struck in 90% silver. For the first year of release demand was high as members of the public wanted a memento to their fallen leader. The US Mint facilities at Philadelphia and Denver would strike more than 400 million coins on a combined basis.

Mintage of the denomination continued in the following years, but in a composition of 40% silver. The total mintage never reached the amount of the initial year, until 1971. At this time, the composition was switched to copper nickel clad and more coins were needed to replaced the silver versions which were being withdrawn from circulation. The mintage this year reached more than 450 million.

For the next few years, production levels subsided until 1976. Coins bearing this date feature a special bicentennial design and were actually struck during both 1975 and 1976. These coins reached a mintage of more than 500 million, which would prove the peak production for the entire series.

The Kennedy Half Dollar mintage levels declined in the following years, never exceeding the 100 million mark at any particular mint. In 1987, the coins were struck in quantities of less than 3 million, since they were not needed for circulation but only struck for government issued mint sets.

Although this might have seemed like the beginning of the end, the US Mint continued to strike the half dollars for circulation in small quantities for more than a decade. The curtain finally closed in 2002, when production was once again restricted to government issued sets and special bags and rolls that were also sold at a premium. Since this time, no half dollars have been struck for release into general circulation.

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