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    

1795 Flowing Hair Liberty Half Dollar1806 O.115a Draped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Xf45, Very Tough! Davidkahnrarecoins1805 Draped Bust Half Dollar 50 Cent Silver Heraldic Eagle Early Half Dollar 1811 Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c Pcgs Au-58 (small 8)1832 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Au58, Nice Mint Luster1806 Pointed 6 Draped Bust Silver Half Dollar * Circulated Us Coin *1830 O.113 Small 0 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Au55, Sweet Look! Davidkahnrarecoins1812 Capped Bust 50¢ Uncertified Ungraded Silver Half Dollar - Family Collection1813 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Clashed Die, Sharp Choice Bu++ Better Date Silver!17 Us Silver Type Coin Lot With 1932 S Washington Quarter 1836 50c Lettered Edge Capped Bust Half Dollar Au1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar, Very Tough Xf++ Better Date Silver Half, Free S/h!1809 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar1829 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Lustrous Choice Bu++ Silver Half, Tough This Nice!1807 50 Over 20 Capped Bust 50c Half Dollar Nice Coin Vf1809 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar1822 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1811 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Tougher Choice Vf++/xf Silver Half, ** Free S/h!1824/1 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1825 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Scarce Choice Au Tougher Date ** Free Shipping!1826 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1825 O.112 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Xf45 Cac, Gem Original Davidkahnrarecoins1835 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Nice Au++ Silver Half, ** Free Shipping!1814 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1839 United States Bust Half Dollar 50¢ Ch. Xf Condition ~last Year Issue~ Coin1811 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Vf * Circulated Us Coin *1839 O Capped Bust 50c Half Dollar Nice Coin Key Date Die Crack Vg1836 50/00 Capped Bust Half Dollar Ngc Au Det. Rare Variety O-116 Looks Ms Unc!1839 Capped Bust Reeded Edge 50c Half Dollar Nice Coin*very Nice 1838 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Estate Fresh*1819 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar1819-p Capped Bust Half Dollar Normal Date Nice Details1808 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Au-53 Cac "album Toned"1812 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Nice Vf-xf - Large 8 - Doubling On Profile- Nr1807 Bust Half Dollar 50/20 Pcgs Vg10Rare O-108 1805 Draped Bust Half Dollar 50c Old Us Silver Coin From Collection1811 50c Small 8 Capped Bust Half DollarNice 1806 O-116 Pointed 6 Stem Draped Bust Half Dollar 50c Old Silver Coin Rare1824 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Tougher Early Silver Half ** Free Shipping!1832 Capped Bust, Lettered Edge Half Dollar1820 O.108 Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Xf45, Very Pleasing Orig Davidkahnrarecoins1823 Double Profile Capped Bust 50c Half Dollar 1812 Capped Bust Half Dollar1835 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1837 Capped Bust Reeded Edge 50c Half Dollar Nice CoinEstate Found United States 1827 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar $1/2 Coin1830 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Fine 50c Coin Auction Starts At 99 Cents!1833 Capped Bust Half Dollar1832 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1818 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c**see Ad 198 Years Old Free Shipping!1824 Capped Bust 50c Half Dollar Nice Coin1817 Capped Bust Half Dollar1795 O.126 Small Head Flowiing Hair Half Dollar, Ngc Ag Det Davidkahnrarecoins1837 Capped Bust Reeded Edge 50c Half Dollar Nice Coin1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar1833 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Scarce Early Silver Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!1826 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1832 Capped Bust 5oc Half Dollar Ms611829 Capped Bust Half Dollar1835 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h