Collectible US Early Half Dollar Coins

The first half dollars, known as Flowing Hair Liberty coins, were minted from late 1794 through the summer of 1795. Designed by the Philadelphia Mint’s Engraver, Robert Scot, the silver coin’s obverse featured the bust of Lady Liberty (with the aforementioned flowing hair) enclosed by a circle of stars on either side of the coin. The word “LIBERTY” sat at the top of the coin, while the year “1794” identified it below. The coin’s reverse was marked by the presence of a rather scrawny looking eagle encircled by a wreath.

Numerous varieties have been identified within the first year’s coinage. For example, in some of the earliest coins, Liberty’s lowest curl of hair ends at the second star on the left side of the coin’s obverse. The same curl on subsequent coins is touched by, or aligned with, the lowest star.

Flowing Hair coins were replaced in 1796 by a more modest Draped Bust design. Though Scot and engraver John Eckstein are credited with the coin’s design, the source for Liberty was a Gilbert Stuart drawing of a local Philadelphia beauty named Ann Willing, who was married to William Bingham. Her portrait appeared on Draped Bust quarters and dimes, too.

While most of the Draped Bust half dollars featured 15 stars on the obverse, some in 1796 were struck with 16. Draped Bust half dollars are generally much more valuable that those of the year before, which is probably why the coin has been a favorite target of counterfeiters.

While the obverse of the Draped Bust half dollar remained relatively constant until 1807, the reverse was freshened up in 1801, when Robert Scot created a Heraldic Eagle for the coin. In addition to appearing better fed, the bird had arrows in one claw and an olive brand in another—the pairings of claws and objects would be switched in 1807. The major change, though, was the appearance of a shield covering the bird’s body.

The last of these early versions of the 50-cent piece was designed in 1807 by John Reich, who was hired by the Mint despite objections from the by-then-elderly Scot. Among other changes, Reich rotated Liberty 180 degrees so she now faced left rather than right. Still draped, she was also given a cap with the word “LIBERTY” emblazoned across it.

As for the coin’s reverse, the eagle now appeared poised for flight, with arrows and olive branch in opposite claws from Scot’s Heraldic version, and “50 C.” at the bottom of the...

Both the First Style and Remodeled types of silver half dollars had lettered edges. From 1807 until 1814, the words “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR” appeared on the coin’s outer edge. From 1814 until 1831, a star was inserted between the words “DOLLAR” and “FIFTY,” presumably to make it easier to see where the phrase stopped and started. Then, from 1832 to 1836, vertical lines were inserted between all of the edge's words.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Coins of Colonial and Early America

The Coins of Colonial and Early America

A wealth of information about colonial coinage! Features images and in-depth essays about a wide range of colonial … [read review or visit site]

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1811 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar, 1814/3 Silver Bust Half Dollar1806 Draped Bust Silver Half Dollar1795 Flowing Hair 50 Cents Almost Uncirculated Rare!1818/7 Small 8 O.102 Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Xf-45, Tough!(estatesale Is Now Dkrc1807 Pcgs F-15 Graded Draped Bust Half Dollar Nice Coin1839-o Jr-1 Reeded Edge Bust Half, Pcgs Xf-40, Tough! (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1813 Capped Bust Half Dolllar Pcgs Xf40 Overton 107a1809 Capped Bust Half Dollar Choice Xf * Free Shipping *1828 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Au501817 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Estate Coin, Ungraded, No Reserve...!1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar - Pcgs Vf251811 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1806 50c Draped Bust Half Dollar Ngc-vf-20 P.q Old Holder Very Nice Toning P.q1819/8 Pcgs Xf40 Bust 50c - Neon Blue Rim Toned, O-106 R.4 , Tough Overton 1061818 Capped Bust 50 Cents - Obv. Die Breaks Error - Almost Uncirculated Rare!1838 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Ngc Xf40Better 1810 Capped Bust Half Ngc Xf-45 Looks Au1832 Pcgs Xf-45 Capped Bust Half Dollar #5128495 **nice Coin**1835 Capped Bust Half Dollar (xf 45) Pcgs1810 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Estate Coin, Ungraded, No Reserve...!Nice 1827 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 187 Years Old***higher Grade Details1809 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Graded / Slabbed Ngc Vf25 Vf 25 Very FineEstate Found 1830 U.s. Liberty Capped Bust $1/2 Half Dollar 50 Cent Silver Coin1812 Pcgs Xf45 Bust 50c - Beautiful Original Tone, Superb Eye Appeal Nr1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Hole1812 Silver U.s. Capped Bust Half Dollar Type Coin Ngc Graded Xf401831 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!Tough Overdate 1820/19 Capped Bust Half Curl 2 Pcgs Vf-20 I Grade Vf-30/351808 O.103 Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf-25, Very Pleasing (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)Nice 1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar1834 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 180 Years Old*some Luster High Grade Details1832 O.106 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Xf-45, Original & Nice(estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar Small Letters 50c - Pcgs Vf30 - Certified & GradedUs 1807 Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle Reverse Half Dollar 1833 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1831 Capped Bust Half Dollar, High Grade, Nice Look!50c 1807 Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle, Ag Details * No Reserve!1829 O.119 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Xf-40, Crusty & Sweet(estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1823 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1833 Us Early Halves Half Dollar1826 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Estate Coin, Ungraded, No Reserve...!1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!#g38 **rare** Early U.s. Vintage Silver 1809 Bust Half Dollar Die Crack 3:301806 50c Pcgs Vg10 Draped Bust Half * Ogh * #26450251832 Capped Bust Half Dollar Large Letters 50c - Pcgs Au50 - Certified & Graded1803 Draped Bust Half Dollar, Fifty Cent Piece, Holed, Early1832 Gem High Grade Capped Bust Half Dollar From Big Collection1824 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar- Nice Early Example...no Reserve1835 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1828 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1835 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1811 Capped Bust Half Dollar Die Clashed Rare Type Coin Old Money O-108 Small 81832 Capped Bust Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!1834 Capped Bust 50 Cents Uncirculated1830 O.104 Small 0 Bust Half, Pcgs Au-50, Dusty & Pq (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1812 Bust Half Pcgs Vf35 O-104. Line Through Wing. Rotated Dies.1827 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Ngc Certified1834 U.s. Capped Bust Half Dollar (you Grade) ***low Start Price ***1837 Bust Half Dollar Xf