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Hidden Gems: Secrets of the Kennedy Half Dollar Revealed

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Since its inception in 1964, the Kennedy Half Dollar reaveled has not only been a symbol of American currency but also a testament to the nation’s history and artistry. Beyond its familiar design and composition, this coin holds secrets that intrigue collectors worldwide. Whether you’re a seasoned numismatist or new to coin collecting, exploring these hidden features can deepen your admiration for this iconic piece of American numismatic heritage. Here, we uncover three secret features of the Kennedy Half Dollar that every collector should know.

1. The Accented Hair Variety

The “Accented Hair” variety of the Kennedy Half Dollar stands out as one of the most coveted among collectors. Minted early in 1964, shortly after President Kennedy’s tragic assassination, this variety features a unique detail in the hair above Kennedy’s ear on the obverse side of the coin. The Accented Hair variety displays more pronounced hair strands, giving Kennedy a slightly tousled appearance that differs from the later “Flat Hair” design.


Secret Behind the Variety:

Design Modification: Initially, Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts crafted this design with more detailed hair strands. However, upon seeing the first proofs, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy felt the design made her late husband appear unkempt. As a result, the U.S. Mint swiftly altered the design to reduce the hair detail, creating the more common “Flat Hair” variety.


Collector’s Appeal:

Rarity: Due to its brief production period before the design change, the Accented Hair variety is rare and highly sought after by collectors.


Value: Depending on the coin’s condition (graded), the Accented Hair variety can fetch significantly higher prices at auctions compared to its Flat Hair counterpart.

2. Designer Initials on the Coin

A subtle yet significant feature of the Kennedy Half Dollar is the inclusion of the designers’ initials on the coin’s surface. Both the obverse and reverse sides bear the initials of the artists responsible for their creation.


Gilroy Roberts (Obverse):

Initials “GR”: Look closely at the truncation of Kennedy’s neck on the obverse side, and you’ll find the initials “GR” discreetly engraved. These initials belong to Gilroy Roberts, the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint at the time.


Frank Gasparro (Reverse):

Initials “FG”: On the reverse side of the coin, to the right of the eagle’s tail feathers, you can spot the initials “FG.” These initials belong to Frank Gasparro, who served as the Assistant Engraver at the U.S. Mint.


Significance for Collectors:

Identification: Discovering and identifying these initials adds authenticity and provenance to the coin.


Historical Context: Understanding the artists behind the design enriches your appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistry involved in creating the Kennedy Half Dollar.

3. The Legacy of Special Mint Sets (SMS)

Another hidden aspect of the Kennedy Half Dollar lies in its production within Special Mint Sets (SMS). Introduced in 1965, these sets offered higher-quality coins compared to standard mint state issues. The SMS coins were meticulously struck and polished to achieve a distinct finish, setting them apart as collector’s items.


Secret Production and Rarity:

Limited Mintage: SMS coins were produced in limited quantities, enhancing their rarity and appeal among collectors.


Inadvertent Circulation: Despite being intended for collectors, some SMS coins may have entered circulation accidentally, contributing to their scarcity.

Collector’s Interest:


Value: SMS coins, including the Kennedy Half Dollar, often command premium prices at auctions due to their rarity and superior quality.

Variety Identification: Identifying SMS coins requires careful examination of the coin’s finish and comparison with standard mint state issues.



The Kennedy Half Dollar continues to captivate collectors with its blend of history, artistry, and hidden features. From the elusive Accented Hair variety and the discreet initials of its designers to the legacy of Special Mint Sets, these secret features add depth and intrigue to collecting Kennedy Half Dollars. Whether you’re exploring your current collection or embarking on a new hobby, understanding these three hidden aspects enhances your appreciation for the coin’s craftsmanship and historical significance. Keep an eye out for these hidden treasures as you delve into the world of numismatics, and uncover the unique stories behind each Kennedy Half Dollar in your possession.


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