Half dollar coins have been produced nearly every year since the inception of the United States Mint in 1794. Sometimes referred to as the fifty-cent piece, the only U.S. coin that has been minted more consistently is the cent.
Half dollar coins saw heavy use, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. For many years, they were commonly used in casinos. Rolls of half dollars may still be kept on hand in cardrooms for games requiring 50-cent antes or bring-in bets, for dealers to pay winning naturals in blackjack, or where the house collects a rake in increments of 50 cents (usually in low-limit seven-card stud and its variants). Some slot machines also took in, and paid out in, 50-cent pieces; however, casinos gradually have phased in “coinless” slots for all denominations, taking in paper dollars, and paying winners through vouchers.
By the early 1960s, the rising price of silver was nearing the point where the bullion value of United States silver coins would exceed face value. In 1965, the U.S. introduced layered composition coins made of a copper core laminated between two cupro-nickel outer faces. The silver content of dimes and quarters was totally eliminated, but the Kennedy half dollar composition still contained silver (reduced from 90 to 40 percent) from 1965 to 1970.
The 1964 Kennedy halves were massively saved out of circulation for sentimental reasons. Those issued through the end of the 1960s were hoarded as the only precious metal U.S. coins remaining in production, and as the price of silver continued to rise, pre-1964 halves disappeared from circulation as well. By the time that the coin’s composition was changed to match that of the clad dimes and quarters in 1971, both businesses and the public had adapted to a country in which the half dollar did not generally circulate. The quarter took over the half’s role as the highest-value component of change.
Most coins enter circulation through the change drawers of businesses. Few businesses stock their change drawers with half-dollars, and many banks do not stock these coins or hand them out as normal business practice, so the coins do not see much circulation.
Most U.S. vending machines do not accept half dollars, nor do payphones, which further curtails its circulation; however, most sleight of hand magicians specializing in coin magic around the world prefer the half dollar for its size and weight, and it is the most common denomination used for U.S. commemorative coins.
In recent years, half dollars have been minted only for collectors, due to large Federal Reserve and government inventories on hand of pre-2001 pieces, this mostly due to lack of demand and large quantity returns from casino slot machines that now operate “coinless”. If and when the reserve supply runs low, the mint will again fill orders for circulation half dollars. It took about 18 years (1981–1999) for the large inventory stockpile of a similar low demand circulation coin, the $1 coin, to reach reserve levels low enough to again produce circulation pieces. Modern-date half dollars can be purchased in proof sets, mint sets, rolls, and bags from the U.S. Mint, and existing inventory circulation pieces can be ordered through most US banks. All collector issues since 2001 have had much lower mintages than in previous years. Although intended only for collectors, these post-2001 half dollars sometimes find their way into circulation.
Article Source: en.wikipedia.org