Guide to Half Dollar Values
Handmade, individual dies, as well as many changes over the life of early U.S. Half Dollars, make for a dizzying number of subtypes for the Bust Half. Read More
The Liberty Seated design ran for many years and changed weights several times due to changing valuations of Silver. Read More
Adolph A. Weinman's Liberty Walking design is so iconic it has been reused for several other coins besides the Half Dollar, including the Eagle bullion coin.
Half dollars are a fascinating coin to collect because the large size allows for some very interesting artwork. In addition, many of the early issues have a huge number of variations due to issues with the process of striking the coin, restrikes or die changes.
These were established in the Coinage Act of 1792 but not actually struck for the first time till 1794. They were 89.24% Silver through 1837, then 90% Silver up until 1965, when they were changed to 40% Silver. The coin was changed back in 1971. These are among the American coins that investors may collect for their Silver value rather than their numismatic value in later issues.
Half Dollar Types
The Bust half dollars have many varieties due to both frequent major changes in the obverse and reverse dies and problems with the striking process. The Flowing Hair half dollar was only minted from 1794 to 1795 and has quite a few sub-varieties. The Draped Bust was minted from 1796 to 1807 with two reverses, a small eagle and a heraldic eagle with a shield. Then the Capped Bust was minted with both a lettered edge and a regular reeded (grooved) edge, running from 1807 to 1839. These early issues are favorites with collectors and there are several rare and low mintage variations.
The Liberty Seated variant came in after this from 1839 to 1891. At this point quality control had gotten better and processes were more standardized, so there are less variants and errors than there were in earlier coinage. The weights of these coins changed over the years to keep the Silver content in line with the face value. These are not uncommon coins, but the ones in excellent condition are very uncommon and collectors prefer these.
Barber or Liberty Head half dollars were minted from 1892 to 1915 under the stewardship of chief U.S. Mint engraver Charles E. Barber. Barber’s design was straightforward and held up to circulation, but it is still hard to find uncirculated or other high quality examples of Barber half dollars. These coins are hard to evaluate as a category because many years had multiple types of the coin, including multiple mints.
The Liberty Walking came after the Barber, and it ran from 1916 to 1947. Adolph A. Weinman’s design for the obverse of the coin was so iconic it has been reused for other coins including the famous Eagle bullion coins. In general the older this coin is the more valuable it is. The Liberty Walking holds a special place in the American psyche due to its association with World Wars I and II. Condition for these plays a key role in their value, as many were well circulated.
After the Liberty Walking, the Franklin was the next design for the half dollar. Benjamin Franklin’s portrait was on the obverse and the Liberty Bell was on the reverse, and despite some opposition from the Commission of Fine Arts on the initial design the Treasury approved both sides. This issue ran from 1948 to 1963, and for several years mintages are low. In addition, many of these were melted for their silver content, making some variations harder to find than people would expect.
Collecting Half Dollars
Half dollars are very collectible coins, and many of these issues are highly prized by collectors. Early half dollars have a huge amount of collectible editions because of the wide variety of mint errors, dies and variations as well as the history and small surviving populations. Liberty Seated coins are prized in uncirculated condition, and the same goes for Barber and Liberty Walking versions. These coins were commonly circulated. There are also quite a few key dates among these. Liberty Walking half dollars are generally more valuable the older they are.
Franklin half dollars have a few that sell for a high premium, but it’s also primarily dependent on condition. In this case, though, there are some with a low surviving population due to bullion melting. This can make them more valuable.
The Price Guide
The PCGS Price Guide prices apply only to PCGS-graded coins. The PCGS Price Guide is a guide to assist the coin buying public in determining values for all important United States rare coins. The prices listed in the PCGS Price Guide are average dealer asking prices for PCGS-graded coins. The prices are compiled from various sources including dealer ads in trade papers, dealer fixed price lists and website offerings, significant auctions, and activity at major coin shows.Learn More