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The Kennedy half dollar, first minted in 1964, is a currently-struck fifty cent coin issued by the United States Mint. Meant as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, it was authorised by Congress only over a month after his passing away. Using existing works by Mint sculptors Gilroy Roberts and Frank Gasparro permitted dies to be prepared with great speed, and striking of proof coins started in January 1964, with mintage of coins for circulation beginning the following month.
The coins faded from circulation immediately after their release in April 1964 because of collectors, hoarders, and those enthusiastic about a memento of the late president. Although the Mint drastically increased production, the coins nonetheless failed to circulate. On going rises in the price of silver increased the hoarding and prompted the removal of the metal from the denomination, decreasing the proportion of fine silver per coin from 90 % to 40 % (the "silver clad" pieces). Even after this change was made, the coins still did not circulate considerably, as the now-replaced Franklin half dollar had.
In 1971, silver was taken out completely from the coins. A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was released for the United States Bicentennial and was minted in 1975 and 1976. As well as business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. Despite the fact that adequate supplies of half dollars are now obtainable, their circulation is very limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been minted to fulfill the need from collectors, and are offered through the Mint.
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