The Kennedy Half Dollar appeared in 1964, just months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, whose memory the coin honors. It replaced the Franklin Half Dollar.
The obverse, which depicts Kennedy in profile, was created by Gilroy Roberts, who modified the portrait from a bust he had sculpted earlier for use in the mint's presidential medal series. The reverse design was adapted from the Presidential Seal and shows the American Eagle with legs outstretched. A bundle of arrows is clutched in the talons of one foot and an olive branch is clutched in the talons of the other. It was sculpted by Frank Gasparro who, like Roberts, modified it from a design that he had created for the mint's Kennedy presidential medal.
In 1975 and 1976, the reverse design was temporarily changed to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States. The new image showed Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. The legend/motto "200 years of Freedom" appears to the left of the building. The Presidential Seal returned in 1977.
Mint Marks are D for Denver, S for San Francisco, and P for Philadelphia. In 1964 (the first year of issue), the mint mark appeared on the reverse of the coin on the left side just below the eagle's foot clutching the olive branch. In 1968 the mint mark was moved to the obverse side, below the front part of Kennedy's neck. The mint mark is lacking on Half Dollars minted from 1965 to 1967 and those minted in Philadelphia prior to 1980.
No Kennedy Half Dollars were struck for general circulation in 1987 and after 2001 (although they appear in United States mint sets). In addition to mint sets, Kennedy Half Dollars may be purchased directly from the mint in rolls and bags (for a price greater than the face value).
Initially Kennedy Half Dollars were composed of 90% silver and 10% copper. In 1965, however, the silver content was reduced to 40% and, beginning in 1971, silver was removed altogether. The coins are currently composed of a pure copper core covered with an outer layer of copper-nickel (the same composition as US dimes and quarters).