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The 1987 Kennedy Half Dollars

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - January 25, 2023

The 1987-P Kennedy Half Dollar and its Denver cohort were struck only for numismatic purposes. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Kennedy Half Dollars have been largely absent from general circulation for years now – easily since at least the late 1970s or early ‘80s if not well before then. Many might even cite the very first Kennedy Half Dollars struck in 1964 to honor President John F. Kennedy, assassinated in a Dallas motorcade on November 22, 1963, as being among the last halves to ever see widespread immersion in general commerce.

The Kennedy-emblazoned half dollars, hoarded by millions as mementos of the fallen young president, have long been more popular as collectibles than as circulating coins. By the 1970s, they were perhaps more commonplace in casinos and in the mass-transit circuit than as coins used widely for more day-to-day purchases. The situation even led to a funny 1974 exchange on popular game show Let’s Make a Deal, with host Monty Hall offering a contestant $50 for every half dollar she had in her purse at the time. The player replied, “Half dollars? They don’t make those any more!” Hall quipped back, “Well, all I know is I have a bunch of them sitting at home in a jar!”

Fast forward more than a decade, and the United States Mint had plenty of half dollars sitting in federal vaults. In 1987, a supply amounting to two years’ worth of half dollars sat idle in government stockpiles, precluding any need for the U.S. Mint to produce any more for circulation that year. However, officials with the U.S. Mint and the U.S. Treasury were not yet ready to declare the coin’s semi-permanent retirement from circulation as happened in 2002, when the coin began a numismatic-only production run that lasted nearly 20 years.

Due to the surplus of half dollars on hand, the United States Mint produced business-strike 1987 Kennedy Half Dollars only for inclusion in that year’s uncirculated sets. The Philadelphia Mint struck 2,890,758 half dollars in 1987, matching the denomination’s output by the Denver Mint that year. The 2,890,758 figure matches how many United States Mint Sets were distributed to the public in 1987. These sets were sold for $7 apiece and included one example each of the Lincoln Cent, Jefferson Nickel, Roosevelt Dime, Washington Quarter, and Kennedy Half Dollar from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, totalling 10 coins, plus a small mint token from each of the two mints.

The 1987 Kennedy Half Dollars may have been struck only for numismatic purposes but they are hardly scarce. Plenty are held within numismatic circles and generally sell for only modest premiums in the mid-range uncirculated grades.

While 1987 Kennedy halves were produced expressly for collectors, these coins did not necessarily escape some of the handling mishaps that befall many a business-strike coin. It is difficult to find specimens that could be considered “superb.” In MS67, the 1987 Kennedy Half Dollar is decidedly scarcer and in higher grades it is downright rare. This fact bears out in the PCGS Population Reports and PCGS Price Guide.

As of January 2023, PCGS has graded only three examples of the 1987-P in MS67+ and just one in the finest grade of MS68, with the MS67+ specimens worth $400 and the MS68 listed for $4,150. As for the 1987-D, PCGS has graded only five specimens in MS67+ and just six in MS68, with none higher; prices for the 1987-D in MS67+ trend around $260, while in the top grade of MS68 it’s more than 10 times higher – $2,650.

Article provided by PCGS at
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