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Coin Of the Month

Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin

The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar

Peter, the Mint Eagle speaking.  Kids, did you know that 50 years ago, politicians relied more on radio than television to get their message across?  That is until 1960.  That's when the president profiled on our coin of the month won his campaign against Republican vice-presidential incumbent Richard M. Nixon.

Do you know who he is?  Hint: there's a big international airport in New York City named after him.  He's John F. Kennedy.  Many civic structures, roadways and even geographical features bear his name.  When I fly past them, I remember his promotion of human rights and commitment to the U.S. space program.  He is a very famous president.

But, he only won the 1960 elections by a slim margin—just a sliver.  And you might say that television won him the election.

A series of four debates televised in the fall of 1960 put him ahead of his opponent.  The first televised debates between two presidential candidates, they contrasted a youthful Kennedy against Nixon.  Unfortunately, Nixon underestimated the impact TV had achieved by that time.  While radio listeners voted Nixon the winner, the television audience favored Kennedy, and the televised debates reached over 4½ times the radio listeners—270 million TV viewers, 61.4 million radio listeners.

After Kennedy, our 35th president, was assassinated on November 22, 1963, our nation mourned deeply.  There was such an outpouring of public sentiment that Congress made a special law to commemorate him on a coin—the half-dollar.  In February 1964, the first Kennedy half-dollars were struck.

Peter, the Mint Eagle

The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Obverse
Obverse:  The obverse shows a strong but simple bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the youngest-ever-elected president. Gilroy Roberts, chief engraver of the Mint, based this image on a profile portrait prepared for Kennedy's presidential medal. Roberts created this design immediately after Kennedy's assassination.

The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Reverse
Reverse:  The Kennedy half-dollar's reverse displays a version of the presidential seal-a heraldic eagle with a shield on its breast, holding a symbolic olive branch and a bundle of 13 arrows. A ring of 50 stars surrounds the design, which gives this coin the distinction of having more stars than any other coin.

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