(This post may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.)
1971 was the year when the US mint stopped using silver to make Kennedy half-dollars. Although this decision reduced the melt value of this coin, it still can be sold for thousands of dollars.
And, I’ll show how in this post…
The value of a “regular” 1971 Kennedy half-dollar
Tens of millions of half-dollars were minted in 1971. You can find them everywhere. Their monetary value is only 0.5 $ and the value of its metal content is insignificant. But…
You can sell your half-dollar for a lot of money if it is rare. Rarity can be due to high grade or errors.
I’ll talk about errors in the next paragraphs. For now, I’ll focus only on the grade.
It is basically a measurement of how attractive the coin is. This is important for collectors. They are ready to pay thousands of dollars for coins in good condition.
In order to have a high grade, the coin should be clean, shiny, has no scratches and the characters imprinted on its surface should be clearly visible.
Coins that have been in circulation for a long time will be bent, scratched and their surface will be worn out.
Since these coins were minted more than 40 years ago, it is very difficult to find well-preserved ones. Because of this rarity, they are precious.
A regular 1971 half-dollar was sold for 1500 $ simply because has a high grade (67).
If you find a well-preserved coin and you think it can be sold for a good sum, you can send it to a certification company.
Experts will examine it and will place it in a plastic holder where its grade will be inscribed. It is a number on a 70-point scale. This number will determine the value of your 1971 half-dollar on the market.
Although it is not an exact science, dealers and collectors agree on this rating, especially if it was given by one of the leading companies I already mentioned. Moreover, the grade given by two independent coin experts will be very close.
This is actually the point of inventing this scale from the first place. It is a way to evaluate coins as objectively as possible. It was invented by William Sheldon in the forties.
Having a grade of 70 means the coin is in perfect condition. Scratches cannot be seen even if we examine it with a microscope under 8X magnification.
A grade of 1 means that the coin is worn out and it is barely identifiable. If this is the case, don’t send it for grading.
Only send your coins if you think they can be sold for a lot of money. Because rating takes time and you have to pay a small fee for it.
Silver planchet error
The Kennedy half-dollar was first introduced in 1964 to commemorate John F. Kennedy. It was made from 90% silver.
But this coin barely showed up in circulation despite the efforts of the US mint to increase the production.
The reason was that people were hoarding it and melting it for its silver content. This why the mint decided to reduce the silver content to 40 %.
However, this didn’t solve the problem. So they finally decided to stop using silver in 1971. And to make the 50 cent coins from copper and nickel instead.
Some of the planchets that contained 40 % silver and were left from 1970 were accidentally minted in 1971.
These half dollars are rare and they are extremely valuable. Collectors are still looking for them and they can be anywhere.
For example, a coin shop owner found a 1971 silver half-dollar in 2015. It was in circulation for more than 40 years and nobody knew its real value.
I think it is time to check your pocket change. You may find one of these. And it can be sold for somewhere between 1000 and 6000 $.
To tell if your half-dollar is silver, you can simply weigh it. The copper-nickel clad weight is 11.34 g. whereas, the 40% silver-clad weighs 11.50 g.
Circulated 1971 Kennedy half-dollars were struck in two different mints.
If they have no mintmark, then were they made in Pennsylvania (there are more than 155 million of these).
There are over 300 million coins that were produced in Dever and have the D mark.
Proof coins were minted in San Francisco and they have the S mark. They are relatively rare. Only 3 million of these were made.
If you find one of these, you can sell it for up to 4000 $ even if they have no errors.
The silver planchet error that I discussed earlier occurs before the planchet is fed to the minting machine.
In this paragraph, I’ll share with you some of the errors that happen during the striking process and that increase the value of the coin.
Double die obverse
Examine the obverse and look for doubling in “liberty” and “in God we trust”. It can be more visible on some letters than others.
For example, you can focus on the letter “T” in “liberty”. If you find that the serifs are doubled, then you have the double die obverse error.
This error can increase the value of your 1971 Kennedy half-dollar up to 500 $ depending on the grade.
Double die reverse
After examining the obverse, it’s time to look for doubling on the reverse.
This error combined with a high grade and a rare variety will increase the value of the 1971 half-dollar dramatically.
For example, a Kennedy coin that has the double die on its reverse was sold for 2500 $ because it has the S mintmark.
Clipped coins look like the bitten Apple logo. Their value isn’t that high (around 40 $). But not bad for 50 cents.
If you want to make money by selling your 1971 half-dollar, you should obviously forget about the monetary and the metal values.
Focus only on the numismatic value. It increases substantially (up to a few thousand dollars) if your coin is well preserved, is made from 40% silver, has the S mint mark or has a minting error.