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    

✯1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar ✯ Unc 50c Uncirculated ✯ Silver Flowing Hair Rare✯1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar Ngc Pop # 11 Only!!! R-4 Ultra Rare 1794 Obverse!!1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar Fine1795 50c Pcgs Genuine Rimdmg - F Details 2 Leaves Flowing Hair1810 Capped Bust 50 Cents Pcgs Au501837 Pcgs Au50 Toned Reed Edge Capped Bust Half Dollar1939 Capped Bust Half Dollar Ngc Xf 451837 50¢ Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Sharp Fifty Cents Coin 1812/1 Capped Bust Half Dollar Au+++ Rare Old Type Coin "small 8" Variety Toned!181.7 Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Vf35 Rare Old Type Coin Punctuated Date 1817!1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar Certified F15 *nice Original Early Us Coin1809 Capped Bust Bust Half Dollar Beautiful Luster Pcgs Xf 40 Overton 1061808 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar Counter Stamped1829 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Super Pq Choice Bu++ Early Date, ** Free Shipping!Neat Variety Die Break 1806 Draped Bust Silver Half Dollar Pointed 6 Very Fine1807 Ngc F12 Draped Bust Half Dollar, O-105, Highland Collection1805/4 Draped Bust Half Dollar - Very Rare - Vintage / Antique1807 Capped Bust Half Dollar 50/20 Variety Rare Old Type Coin O-112 Key Date!1807 O.111a R5 "bearded Goddess" Bust Half, Ngc Fine Det David Kahn Rare Coins1812 Capped Bust 50 Cents Icg Ef401812 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Scarce Choice Au+ Early Date Survivor, ** Free S/h1822 Capped Bust 50 Cents Pcgs Xf451833 O.102 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Au-58 Cac, Sweet David Kahn Rare Coins1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar Pointed ^ W/stems Pcgs Vf Scarce1830 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Beautiful Uncirculated+ Early Date! ** Free S/h!1810 Capped Bust Half Dollar Vf 30 Pcgs1818 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar 50c - You Grade It - H161805 O.105 R5 Draped Bust Half, Pcgs Vf-25, Cud Rev Sweet David Kahn Rare Coins1814 O.102a Capped Bust Half, Pcgs Au-53, Bright Luster David Kahn Rare Coins1807 Draped Bust 50c- Pcgs F 151806 Draped Bust Half Dollar Knob 6 O-107 R5 Rarity - Counterstamped Vf+ Details1839 Capped Bust 50 Cents - Reeded Edge- Nice Uncirculated1832 Capped Bust 50 Cents Icg Ef451809 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Lettered Edge - No Reserve & Free Shipping !!! 1835 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar1809 Capped Bust Half Dollar Xf 45 Pcgs1811 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Pggs Xf45 O-106 R31827/6 O.101 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf-25, Nice! David Kahn Rare Coins1830 Capped Bust Half Dollar Nice Vf+ Large O Variety1830 Capped Bust Half Dollar In About Uncirculated Condition! Overton 121 R31824 Capped Bust Silver Us Half Dollar 50c - You Grade It - H2050¢ 1805 Draped Bust Half Dollar Vg1834 Capped Bust Silver Half Dollar Vf-xf ~ Small Hole ~ Circulated Us Coin1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar Vf 30 Pcgs.1818 50c Capped Bust Half Dollar Pcgs Vf35 ~ Nice! Sharp! No Reserve!1827 Capped Bust 50 Cents With Square Base 2 Variety Icg Ef401823 Capped Bust Half Dollar - Pggs Vg10 O-101 R3 - "broken 3"1807 50c Flowing Hair Bust Half Dollar! Vf Details-only Minor Issues Please Read1819/8 Large 9 O.106 R4 Capped Bust Half, Ngc Xf-40 Choice David Kahn Rare Coins1831 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Great Choice Bu++ Early Date Issue, ** Free S/h!Bust Half 18141837 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c 178 Years Old***holed No Reserve1808 Capped Bust Half Dollar Ms Bu Unc Detail Rare Old Type Coin Nice O-108 R.31834 Capped Bust Half Dollar Choice Bu Detail LusterousBust Half 18201810 Silver Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c Great Details!1828 O.103 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf-35, Sweet! David Kahn Rare CoinsTough Early Date 1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar High Grade** Free Shipping1827 Ngc Vf25 Draped Bust Half Dollar1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar Overton 102 Pcgs Au