Gilroy Roberts, chief engraver of the Mint from 1948 to 1964, designed the obverse of this coin. His stylized initials are on the truncation of the forceful bust of President John F. Kennedy. The reverse, which uses the presidential coat of arms for the motif, is the work of Frank Gasparro, who was appointed chief engraver in February 1965. A few of the pieces dated 1971-D and 1977-D were struck in silver clad composition by error.
The design was slightly modified several times between 1971 and the present.
In an open contest for the selection of suitable designs for the special Bicentennial reverses of the quarter, half dollar, and dollar, Seth G. Huntington’s winning entry was featured on the half dollar. It shows Independence Hall in Philadelphia as the center device. The obverse was unchanged except for the dual dating 1776–1976. Bicentennial half dollars were struck during 1975 and 1976 and were used for general circulation as well as being included in Proof and Uncirculated sets for 1975 and 1976.