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 Half Dollar Vg/f Attractive Color (lt. Graffitti)1805 Draped Bust Half Dollar Vf Old Toning1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar F/vf Original Old Toning1805 Flowing Hair,draped Bust Half Dollar,90% Silver,ungraded Estate Coin No Res1838 Gr-13 Reeded Edge Bust Half, Pcgs Au-55 Ogh, Nice! (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar Silver Coin 50c 90% Silver Lettered Edge1837 Capped Bust Half Dollar Nice Uncirculated Reeded Edge1827 O.120 R5 Square 2 Bust Half, Pcgs Xf-40, Very Nice (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)50c 1818 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf40 * No Reserve!1835 Ngc Capped Bust Half Dollar Ngc Au 50 ** Tough Early Date!1820 Over 19 Capped Bust Half Dollar Silver Coin 50c 90% Silver Lettered Edge1831 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Great Date, ** Free Shipping!Liberty Usa 50 Cents 1806 Pcgs Vf Details1823 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf451806 Draped Bust Half Dollar Vg [#2/2]1833 Capped Bust Half Anacs Vf35 Rainbow Toned~ Colorful Toning~o-101 Old Slab1806 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1836 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Counterstamped Star Lettered Edge U.s Coin1826 O.106 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Au-55, Orig Gray Dirt (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1834 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf451827 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1836 U.s. Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 50 C. Beautiful Au Almost Uncirculated1829 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Au501830 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf45 Small O1834 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar. Old Photo Pci1811 U.s. Bust Half-dollar1824 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf401829 O-112a Pcgs Vf35 Bust Half Dollar - Cac Stickered - No Reserve1838 Au Reeded Edge Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Id# Rr7471809 Capped Bust Half Dollar ˜1822 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Au531812 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar! Key Date! High Grade! Nr!1834 Bust Half 50c Pcgs Au50 Luster1827 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf45 Sq Base 250c 1812 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Vf Details - Cleaned * No Reserve!1820 Capped Bust Half Dollar Vf1835 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Au ++++,estate Coin,90% Silver, No Reserve,wowee!!1814 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1831 Capped Bust Half Dollar Totally Original & Toned! Rare Type Coin Old Money1826 50c Overton 108a Capped Bust Half Dollar Ngc-vf 251810 Bust Half Dollar W/ Hole Nice Details1825 Capped Bust Half Dollar Xf Old Toning50c 1826 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Au Details - Cleaned * No Reserve!1811 Capped Bust Half Dollar Vf Old Toning1819 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Icg Certified Ef40 Details - 1811 Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h!!1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar Vg [#1/2]1812 & 1817 Capped Bust Half Dollars G/vg1834-capped Bust 50 Cents/fine Condition!!!!!!!!!1811 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Super Nice Ungraded Coin,& No Reserve1834 O-120 R.4 (and) 1826 O-111 R.2 Bust Halves Both Pcgs Xf401854-o Seated Half W/ Bu Details, Lightly Wiped 99c / True Auction! Esk1802 Bust Silver Dollar1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar-ngc Vf 301827 O-107 Pcgs Vf25 Bust Half Dollar - No Reserve1829-p Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c - Pcgs Vf35 - Certified & Graded *no Reserve!1813 Capped Half Dollars Nice Patina Tucked A Way In A Safety Deposit Box 1838 Reeded Edge Bust Half | Nice Original Gray Vf++ 99c / True Auction! Dt1833 U.s. Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 50 C. Beautiful Au Almost Uncirculated1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!