When President John F. Kennedy (aka Jack aka JFK) was assassinated in 1963, both the public and the governing authorities wanted to commemorate him on a coin. So he quickly landed on the half dollar starting in 1964, and his features still graced it in 1974. But what makes it so special? Let’s dig into some details and accurately assess 1974 Half Dollar value.
1974 Kennedy Half Dollar Value Chart
|Mint Mark||Good (G 4)||Fine (F 12)||Extremely Fine (EF 40)||Uncirculated (MS 60)||Mint State (MS 65)|
|1974 ‘P’ No Mint Mark Half Dollar Value||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$2.28|
|1974 S Half Dollar Value||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$2.28|
|1974 D Half Dollar Value||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50||$2.28|
History of the 1974 Half Dollar
John F. Kennedy was one of the most beloved presidents in history. Not just in America, but around the world. So when he was shot in 1963, the decision to honor him with circulating currency was unanimous. The public and the government agreed, and his widow, Jackie O, asked for him to be on the half dollar. She didn’t want to displace the $1 George Washington.
A few months before his death, the US Mint had been working on a series of Presidential Medals, and JFK had approved his medal. Or rather, he hadn’t disapproved – he famously had no opinion on the matter. But since he was okay with how he looked on the medal, the same image was used on the coin. The coin was designed by the two Chief Mint Engravers.
Gilroy Roberts (1948 to 1964) designed the heads side aka obverse while Frank Gasparro (1965 to 1981) designed the tails side aka reverse. At the time, Gasparro was still an Assistant Mint Engraver, and he didn’t get promoted until 1965 when Roberts left the post. Both their initials appear on the coin, with GR on the obverse neck and FG on the reverse above the tail.
Earlier half dollars were 90% silver in 1964 and 40% silver from 1965 to 1970. The silver was reduced and eventually eliminated to prevent hoarding and silver stacking for the coin’s melt value. So the 1974 Half Dollar had today’s clad composition of 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel. Later, in the 90s and 2010s, commemorative 50c coins came in pure silver and gold.
Grading Kennedy Half Dollars is tricky. When silver prices were high, the coins were hoarded and melted. When prices dropped, a few coins would enter circulation, but even those would soon be re-stashed out of habit. In 2021, the Mint resumed making clad half dollars so a lot of them exist. But the coins aren’t worth much unless they have rare errors.
You may notice that the mint mark on 1974 Half Dollars is tiny. In reality, it’s the same size as the mint marks on other denominations that year. But because the half dollar is the largest circulating coin in terms of weight, thickness, and diameter, the mint mark seems minuscule. For reference, a half dollar is almost twice as heavy as a typical quarter, it’s 11g+.
Why is it so important to know the weight of a coin? Well, coin counterfeiters will often make accurate copies of the device, dates, and other salient features on the coin. But they rarely achieve the exact metal composition of authentic coins, so fake coins weigh significantly less (or sometimes more) than original coins. As you sift coin rolls, having a good scale is handy!
Features of the 1974 Half Dollar
The 1974 Kennedy Half Dollar has a lot of identifying information. It has different maker’s marks on the front and back. The mint mark is at the front as well. Let’s take a closer look.
The Obverse of the 1974 Half Dollar
The obverse (heads side) of the 1974 Half Dollar features a left-facing portrait of JFK. The legend Liberty runs along the collar above his head, though the ‘BER’ is partially hidden by his hair. Along his neckline, there’s a GR for the designer, Gilroy Roberts. Under that is the mint mark where applicable, followed by the minting year stamped along the lower collar.
On the left side of his neck are the words In God, and on the right side of his neck, the motto is completed with the words We Trust. This coin – at least the 1964 version – comes in two types because Jackie O wanted a little less emphasis on the strands of his hair. But the 1974 Half Dollar only comes in one style. The image was based on the Mint’s Presidential Medal.
The Reverse of the 1974 Half Dollar
The reverse (tails side) of the 1974 Half Dollar features the Seal of the United States President. It’s quite a detailed diagram, and the only thing that’s missing is the seal’s symbolic colors. But you can still make out the most salient features – 13 puffs of cloud, 13 stripes on the shield, 13 stars near the shield, 13 arrows in the eagle’s leg, + an olive branch.
The ’13’ represents the first 13 States of the Union. The coin also has a banner that reads E Pluribus Unum. The denomination runs along the lower collar while United States runs along the upper collar, with two dots dividing these legends. Between the wording and the eagle, the ring of 50 stars is for the 50 United States. FG sits between the tail and the right leg.
Other Features of the 1974 Half Dollar
In 1865, Congress officially prohibited living people from appearing on any American currency. But the 1974 Half Dollar was slightly different. Although the model graced the coin only a few months after his death, he was alive during the sculpting of the portrait, so he was able to approve the depiction. That’s because the initial portrait was for a medal, not a coin.
As we’ve already mentioned, the 1974 Half Dollar is huge – 30 611mm in diameter (1.205″) and 2.15mm thick (0.085″). It has 150 reeds on its edge and weighs 11.34g. In 1974, its metal mix was 100% copper at the core with 75% copper + 25% nickel on the outside. This Johnson Sandwich (after Lyndon B. Johnson) produced a total mix of 91.67% copper + 8.33% nickel.
1974 Half Dollar Value Guide
The value of a 1974 Half Dollar is driven by its mintage numbers, graded condition, and any rarities or errors on the coin. Let’s look into the three sub-classes of 1974 JFK half dollars.
1974 No Mint Mark Half Dollar Value
In 1974, 201,596,000 half dollars were minted in Philadelphia, meaning they carry no mint marks. The current record for this coin is $8,000 in MS 68. That was an eBay sale in March 2021. One step down, in MS 67, with no mint marks and no errors, this coin sold for $2,300.
1974 S Half Dollar Value
1974 saw 2,612,568 half-dollars minted in San Francisco, and all of them were proofs. Unlike other coins, proofs are coined on burnished planchets. The dies are also specially treated so that the first 50 to 100 proof coins made with a proof die will exhibit a mirrored field and a frosted device. This is described as Cameo, CAM, or Deep Cam, depending on contrast levels.
Some coin appraisers say proof coins are worth less than circulated ones because the striking process is different, so they don’t stay pristine for long. But these proof coins live inside their protective cases and are rarely removed, so they can retain value that way, and often fetch higher prices as a result. In PR 65, you can get $5.70. In PR 70 DCAM, it’s worth $7,900.
1974 D Half Dollar Value
The Denver Mint produced 64,625,000 half dollars in 1974, so these would have the D mint mark. The DDO error is quite common on these coins, but even without errors, this half-dollar can be worth a decent amount. In MS 67, a 1964 D Half Dollar reliably sells for $820.
1974 Half-Dollar Errors
Coin errors can significantly raise the value of any 1974 Half Dollar. This change in price can range from a dollar or two to thousands, so let’s browse a few common flaws on this 50-cent.
1974 D Half Dollar DDO Error
DDOs are among the most common coin errors. They happen when the die shifts during hubbing, so the strikes fall on slightly different spots, creating a sort of doubling effect. You can see the doubling on ‘We Trust’ with a little on the R and T on Liberty. In MS 63, a 1974 D DDO goes for $40, but a 1974 D DDO in MS 65 goes for $200, and in MS 66 its price is $450.
1974 Half-Dollar Broadstruck Error
Some coins have designs on their edges, and the half dollar is a good example. The mint might use 3-piece collars or incusion machines to design the 150 reeds on this coin. But if the collars fall off or detach prematurely, the coin flattens and spills over, stretching the device. This error is known as a broadstrike, and in MS 60, a 1974 Broadstruck Half Dollar is $125.
1974 D Half Dollar DDO Error
We’ve already seen an obverse doubling error on a Denver half-dollar. Sometimes, the doubling is clear enough for the naked eye. Other times, you need to check the coin with a jeweler’s loupe or a USB coin microscope. The latter plugs into your computer so you can inspect the coins more closely. In MS 66, a 1974 D DDO once sold for a satisfying $1,527.50!
1974 Half Dollar Struck on a $5 Taiwan Planchet
As you may know, the blank disc used to mint a coin is called a planchet. And once in a while, planchets from the wrong denomination (or even the wrong country!) end up in the minting machine. This 1974 ‘P’ (No Mint Mark) was accidentally struck on a $5 planchet from Taiwan and even though it’s only graded at AU 55, this error raised the coin’s selling price to $430.
1974 Clipped Half-Dollar Error
Sometimes, something slices a coin so clean that it seems intentional. The damage could happen inside the mint, or maybe at a separate location. Maybe the coin fell onto a tram line or railroad. Or it may have slipped into some chopping machine in a metal-working studio. Either way, at least one 1974 Half Dollar exists with its left portion clipped to the cheekbone.
1974 Half Dollar Circulation Error
On some half-dollar samples, the coin gets dinged during everyday use. The reeds at the edge might mar the device, leaving little ‘teeth marks’ on the portrait. Or the coin might be dented or scuffed if it fell under the wheels of a heavy vehicle. These errors aren’t cataloged and aren’t worth much individually. So if the coin is otherwise pristine, it’ll retain its high grade.
FAQs About the 1974 Half Dollar
How Much is a 1974 Half-Dollar Worth Today?
A typical 1974 Kennedy Half Dollar is only worth its face value of 50 cents. It has no silver in it, and copper is fairly cheap these days, so the coin’s melt value is nothing to get excited about – sorry! You can find a few rare specimens in super high grades. In 2021, a perfectly graded 1974 S Half Dollar with deep contrast and a perfect grade (PR 70) went for $7,900.
Is a 1974 Kennedy Half Dollar Coin Rare?
Not really. The mint made over 200M if you only count the Philadelphia coins without mint marks. If you count all three mints, that’s 280,662,300 half dollars in total. Since the 1974 coins had no silver, they were simply hoarded out of habit, and many have since popped up in cigar boxes, attics, and sock drawers. That’s why most of these coins are only worth 50c.
What is the Error in the 1974 Half Dollar?
The most common error on the 1974 Half Dollar is the DDO or Double Die Obverse. You can easily spot the doubling on the mintage year, the mint mark, and the motto In God We Trust.