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8 Simple Ways to Spot a Fake Kennedy Half Dollar Every Collector Should Know

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The Kennedy Half Dollar, first minted in 1964, is a cherished piece of American currency. Named in honor of President John F. Kennedy, these coins are popular among collectors. However, their popularity has also led to the creation of counterfeit versions. Knowing how to spot a fake Kennedy Half Dollar is essential for any coin enthusiast. Here are eight ways to distinguish an authentic Kennedy Half Dollar from a counterfeit.

1. Check the Weight

Authentic Kennedy Half Dollars have specific weights that vary by their composition:

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  • 1964: 12.5 grams (90% silver)
  • 1965-1970: 11.5 grams (40% silver)
  • 1971-present: 11.34 grams (clad composition)

Use a precise scale to weigh the coin. If the coin’s weight significantly deviates from the standard, it could be a fake. Even a slight difference can indicate that the metal composition is not accurate, suggesting it’s counterfeit.

2. Examine the Edges

The edge of a Kennedy Half Dollar can reveal a lot about its authenticity. Coins minted from 1964 to 1970 have a distinct silver edge, whereas those minted from 1971 onwards have a copper-nickel clad composition, which shows a copper line sandwiched between two nickel layers.

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A genuine Kennedy Half Dollar should not have any seams or unusual markings on the edge. A seamless and smooth edge is a strong indicator of authenticity. Any visible seams might suggest that the coin was cast, not struck, which is a common trait of counterfeit coins.

3. Inspect the Mint Mark

The mint mark on a Kennedy Half Dollar indicates where the coin was produced. Common mint marks for these coins include:

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  • P for Philadelphia
  • D for Denver
  • S for San Francisco

The mint mark should be located on the obverse (heads) side, just above the date. On coins minted before 1968, the mint mark is on the reverse (tails) side, below the olive branch. Ensure that the mint mark is clear, well-defined, and matches the coin’s year of production. A sloppy or misaligned mint mark can be a red flag.

4. Analyze the Sound

An often-overlooked method for spotting a fake coin is its sound. Authentic Kennedy Half Dollars, especially the silver ones, produce a distinctive ring when struck against a hard surface or another coin. Counterfeit coins often produce a duller, more muted sound due to their different metal composition.

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To test this, gently drop the coin onto a hard surface and listen to the sound it makes. Compare it with a confirmed authentic coin. The difference can be subtle but noticeable to a trained ear.

5. Inspect the Details

Counterfeit coins often lack the fine details present on authentic Kennedy Half Dollars. Key areas to inspect include:

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  • The Hair: Kennedy’s hair should have distinct, fine lines. Counterfeit coins may have blurred or indistinct hairlines.
  • The Eyes and Mouth: These features should be well-defined and sharp. Any fuzziness or lack of clarity can indicate a fake.
  • The Reverse: The eagle’s feathers, arrows, and olive branch should be sharp and detailed. Counterfeits often lack these finer details.

Use a magnifying glass to closely examine these areas. The quality of the details can help determine the coin’s authenticity.

6. Check for Errors and Variations

While some errors and variations can increase a coin’s value, others can indicate a counterfeit. Be aware of common errors and their characteristics:

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  • Double Die: Look for doubling in the inscriptions or details. Genuine double die coins have distinct, uniform doubling.
  • Wrong Planchet: Check the coin’s weight and dimensions. A genuine coin struck on the wrong planchet will still have correct details and a proper strike.
  • Mismatched Obverse/Reverse: Ensure that the obverse and reverse designs match the year and mint mark. Mismatched designs are a clear sign of a counterfeit.

Familiarize yourself with known errors and variations to better identify authentic coins.

7. Use a Magnet

Most authentic Kennedy Half Dollars are not magnetic. Silver and copper-nickel, the primary materials used, do not exhibit magnetic properties. A simple test involves using a strong magnet. If the coin is attracted to the magnet, it is likely made from a ferromagnetic material and is therefore a fake.

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However, some counterfeiters use non-magnetic metals, so while this test can be helpful, it should not be the sole method of verification.

8. Seek Professional Verification

When in doubt, consult a professional. Reputable coin dealers and grading services can provide expert analysis and authentication. They have the tools and expertise to identify even the most convincing counterfeits.

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Services such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) can certify the authenticity of your coin. While there is often a fee for this service, it provides peace of mind and can significantly enhance the coin’s value if authenticated.

Conclusion

Detecting a fake Kennedy Half Dollar requires a combination of careful observation, knowledge, and sometimes professional assistance. By checking the weight, examining the edges and mint mark, analyzing the sound, inspecting the details, recognizing errors, using a magnet, and seeking professional help, you can protect yourself from counterfeit coins and ensure your collection remains genuine. Always stay informed and cautious when acquiring new coins, and enjoy the rewarding hobby of coin collecting with confidence.

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