JFK Half-Dollar Gets a Reverse Face-Lift, Returns to 1964 Portrait

If you look very closely, you might notice something different about President John F. Kennedy's portrait on special half-dollar coins the U.S. Mint is putting on sale Tuesday. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of the Kennedy half-dollar, the Mint is going back to the original portrait on the first coins struck in 1964, erasing a half-century of subtle improvements and artistic design updates.

The gold coins, which are premium versions intended for collectors, revert to the original design created by Gilroy Roberts, the Mint's chief sculptor and engraver shortly after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Changes have been minimal and incremental, but over the years, the coin has sharpened Kennedy's cheeks and the part in his hair. The Mint said the original, less well-defined design it's reintroducing Tuesday is closer to what Kennedy really looked like — and to what his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, preferred. The anniversary version also adds the special dates of 1964-2014.


— M. Alex Johnson