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    

1810 Au+ Capped Bust Half Dollar Rare Choice About Uncirculated 90% Silver Coin1834 Silver Capped Bust 50 Cents O-105 Icg Ms631803 Draped Bust Half Dollar@@@ Must See Sharp Coin@@@1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar, Scarce Choice Vf+ Early Silver Half, ** Free S/h!1806 O.113 R5+ Draped Bust Half, Ngc F15, Antique Patina Davidkahnrarecoins1833 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Almost Uncirculated1806 50c Pointed 6 No Stem Draped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Vf 351832 Bust Half Dollar Counterstamp Houck's Panacea Baltimore *hucky*1824 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Gorgeous Choice Au++ Silver Half, ** Free S/h!1839 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Beautiful Bu++ Tougher Silver Half, ** Free S/h!1819/8 O.101 Small 9 Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Xf45, Pleasing Davidkahnrarecoins1826 O.113 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Au50, Original Davidkahnrarecoins1810 O.106a Capped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf35, Superb Orig Davidkahnrarecoins1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar@@@ Must See Sharp Coin@@@1808 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1827 O.104 Bust Half, Pcgs Xf40 Cac, Original & Choice Davidkahnrarecoins1823 50c Broken 3 Capped Bust Half Dollar Silver Coin 1813 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1814 Bust Half Dollar * O-106 * Late State Reverse * Prime* A Over 2nd T1838 Capped Bust Half Dollar Original Patina Fine Details Very Nice Coin (kk)Holed 1806 Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle Half Dollar - Counterstamped "in"1830 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Very Nice Choice Au++/unc, ** Free Shipping!1822 O.110a Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs F15, Great Type Coin Davidkahnrarecoins** 1822 Bust Half Dollar Semi Key Date Xf ***1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Choice Au Early Date Silver Half, Free Shipping!1811 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf40 Small 8 - #100051807 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Vf 25, O-112, Nice Grey, No Reserve, Free Ship1834 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Almost Uncirculated+1837 Capped Bust Half Dollar- Brilliant Uncirculated !! #h1434 No Reserve !!1810 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Vf 25, O-105, Nice Grey, No Reserve, Free Ship1826 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Lettered Edge 50 C1825 Capped Bust Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!1831 Silver Capped Bust 50 Cents Almost Uncirculated+1819 50c Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Small 9 Over 81819/8 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Vf 20, O-102, Scarce, No Reserve, Free Ship1827 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Richly Toned Choice Au Better Date, ** Free S/h!1809 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Vf 25, O-105, Nice Grey, No Reserve, Free Ship1826 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Ngc Au 55 Coin O-108a Super LusterHuge Us Silver Coin Collection! 1826 Capped Half Dollar!!! 1992 American Eagle!!1828 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Obverse Die Clash, Nice Au Early Date, Free S/h!1808 Capped Bust Half Dollar Very Fine O-109/109a1828 Capped Bust Half Dollar Sq. Base Variety & Nice Grade1823 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar 50 Cents Au1820 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Cleaning Xf Details Sq 2, Lg Date, Knob 2 - #100071812/1 Bust Half Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Xf Details Overton 102a Small 8 #10002 1812 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning Xf Details - #100061823 Capped Bust Half Dollar A Very Fine CoinEarly Us 1814 Capped Bust Half Dollar Xf Details-minor Field Scratches-gray Tone1830 Small-o Silver Capped Bust Lettered Edge Half Dollar Free Shipping !!1827 Philadelphia Mint Silver Bust Half Dollar Free S/h1819 Seldom Found Unc++++ Capped Bust Half Dollar1825 O-106 Ngc Ms61 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Us Coin 50 Cents Die Crack 1820 Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Xf40 Curl Base 2, Small Date - #100031819 Bust Silver Half Dollar - Choice Au With Gorgeous Colors - $2.75 S&h 1828 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Ngc Xf 40, O-116, Toned, No Reserve, Free Ship1827 O-123 R5! Bust Half Dollar Xf+ No Reserve1824 Capped Bust Half Dollar *early Us 50 Cents1832 U.s. Half Dollar Capped Bust Hole In Coin Silver Coin1831 Ngc Vf-30 Capped Bust Half Dollar1824/4 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar 4 Over 4 Silver Coin