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Denver Coins --> United States Coins --> United State Half Dollars

Denver Gold and Silver
5475 Leetsdale Dr Suite 210
Denver, Colorado 80246

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Half dollar coins have been produced nearly every year since the inception of the United States Mint in 1794. Sometimes referred to as the fifty-cent piece, the only U.S. coin that has been minted more consistently is the cent.


Half dollar coins saw heavy use, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. For many years they were commonly used in casinos. Rolls of half dollars may still be kept on hand in cardrooms for games requiring 50-cent antes or bring-in bets, for dealers to pay winning naturals in blackjack, or where the house collects a rake in increments of 50 cents (usually in low-limit seven-card stud and its variants). Some slot machines also took in, and paid out in, 50-cent pieces; however, casinos in recent years have phased in "coinless" slots for all denominations, taking in paper dollars, and paying winners through vouchers.

The half dollar's circulation, aside from use in some casinos and movie theaters, has declined significantly. By the early 1960s the value of silver had risen to the point that it became worthwhile to melt down U.S. coins for their bullion content. U.S. silver coins (those of 10-cent value and above, which contained 90 percent silver through 1964) began to disappear from circulation, leading the U.S. to introduce layered composition coins made of a copper core laminated between two cupro-nickel outer faces for the 1965–present coinage years. The Kennedy half-dollar design, however, continued to be minted silver-clad composition from 1965 to 1970, although the silver content was reduced to 40 percent. To find the value of a half-dollar, multiply the current market price for silver by 0.36169 for 1964 issues, and by 0.1479 for issues from 1965 to 1970.

Initially the Kennedy halves were hoarded for sentimental reasons, and because it was recognized as the only precious metal U.S. coin remaining in circulation. By the time mintage figures could match normal demand and the coin's composition was changed to match the newer dimes and quarters in 1971, both businesses and the public had adapted to a world in which the half dollar did not generally circulate. Other uses had been found for the half-dollar section of the cash drawer. People had gotten used to depending on quarters as the major component of change.

Most coins enter circulation through the change drawers of businesses. Few businesses stock their change drawers with half-dollars, and many banks do not stock these coins or hand them out as normal business practice, so the coins do not see much circulation.

Most U.S. vending machines do not accept half dollars, which further curtails its circulation. However, American sleight of hand magicians specializing in coin magic prefer the half dollar for its size and weight, and it is the most common denomination used for U.S. commemorative coins.

In recent years half dollars have been minted only for collectors, due to large Federal Reserve and government inventories on hand of pre-2001 pieces, this mostly due to lack of demand and large quantity returns from casino slot machines that now operate "coinless". If and when the reserve supply runs low, the mint will again fill orders for circulation half dollars. It took about 18 years (1981–1999), for the large inventory stockpile of a similar low demand circulation coin, the $1 coin, to reach reserve levels low enough to again produce circulation pieces. Modern-date half dollars can be purchased in proof sets, mint sets, rolls, and bags from the U.S. Mint, and existing inventory circulation pieces can be ordered through most US banks. All collector issues since 2001 have had much lower mintages than in previous years. Although intended only for collectors, these post-2001 half dollars sometimes find their way into circulation.

Rare Half Dollars

  • Early Half Dollars Flowing Hair All are rare) 1794-1795 $250.00-$2,000.00
  • Bust Half Dollars Draped Bust, Small Eagle Reverse (All are rare) 1796-1797 $7,500.00-$25,000.00
  • Bust Half Dollars Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse (All are scarce) 1801-1807 $75.00-$300.00
  • Bust Half Dollars Capped Bust (Rare dates: 1815; Scarce dates: 1807-1817) 1807-1836 $20.00-$50.00 $300.00-$1,000.00
  • Reeded Edge Half Dollars Reeded Edge (Rare dates: 1836, 1839-O) 1836-1839 $20.00-$75.00 $500.00-$2,000.00
  • Seated Half Dollars (Rare dates: 1850, 1851, 1852, 1855-S, 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1874-CC, 1878-CC, 1878-S, 1879-1890; Many scarce dates) 1839-1891 $8.00-$50.00 $250.00-$500.00
  • Barber Half Dollars (Rare dates: 1892-O, 1892-S, 1893-S, 1896-S, 1897-O, 1897-S; Scarce dates: 1892-1899, 1901-S, 1904-S, 1913, 1914, 1915) 1892-1915 $7.00-$25.00 $250.00-$500.00
  • Walking Liberty Half Dollars (Rare dates: 1916-S, 1921, 1921-D; Scarce dates: 1916-1933, 1938-D) 1916-1947 $7.00-$15.00 $25.00-$50.00
  • Franklin Half Dollars (No rare dates) 1948-1963 $7.00-$15.00 $10.00-$20.00
  • Kennedy Half Dollars Silver (Common date) 1964 $7.00-$15.00 $7.00-$15.00
  • Kennedy Half Dollars Bicentennial (Dated 1776-1976)
    (Common date) 1975-1976 Face Value Face Value
  • Kennedy Half Dollars Silver Clad (No rare dates) 1965-1969 $3.00-$5.00 $5.00-$10.00
  • Kennedy Half Dollars Clad 1971-Present Face Value Face Value


* On December 1, 1794 the first half dollars (approximately 5,300 pieces) – were delivered. Another 18,000 were produced in January 1795 using dies of 1794, to save the expense of making new ones.

* Due to the high production of half dollars from the 1790s, another 30,000 pieces were struck by the end of 1801. The coin had the Heraldic Eagle, based on the Great Seal of the United States on the reverse.

* One of the great mysteries of half dollars was the 150,000 that were minted in 1804 without one specimen known to exist. The coinage of 1804 was struck with dies from 1803, accounting for the confusion.

* In 1838, half dollar dies were sent to a branch mint for the first time, when 20 were struck at the New Orleans Mint. The following year this mint produced nearly 180,000 half dollars.

* In 1861 the New Orleans mint produced coins for three different governments. A total of 330,000 were struck under the United States government, 1,240,000 for the State of Louisiana after it seceded from the Union, and 962,633 after it joined the Confederacy. Since the same die was used for all strikings, the output looks identical. However the Confederate States of America actually minted four half dollars with a CSA (rather than USA) reverse and the obverse die they used had a small die crack. Thus "regular" 1861-O halves with this crack probably were used by the Confederates for some of the mass striking.

* There are two varieties of Kennedy halves in the proof set issues of 1964. Initially the die was used with "accented" hair, showing deeper lines than the president's widow liked. New dies were prepared to smooth out some of the details. It is estimated that about 1–3% (40,000–100,000) of the proof halves are of the earlier type, making them somewhat more expensive for collectors.


Silver half dollars

* Flowing Hair 1794–1795
* Draped Bust 1796–1807
o Draped Bust, Small Eagle 1796–1797
o Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle 1801–1807
* Capped Bust 1807–1839
o Capped Bust (Large Size), With Motto 1807–1836  1830 Capped Bust
o Capped Bust (Small Size), No Motto 1836–1839
* Seated Liberty 1839–1891
o Seated Liberty, No Motto 1839–1866
o Seated Liberty, With Motto 1866–1891
* Barber 1892–1915
* Walking Liberty 1916–1947
* Franklin 1948–1963
* Kennedy 1964 (General circulation issue) [14] (the last 90% silver half-dollar for circulation, contains 0.36169 oz. net silver per coin, or 7.234 oz. silver per roll)
* Kennedy 1992–present (silver proof sets available)
Various half dollar designs

40 percent silver half dollars

* Kennedy 1965–1969
* Kennedy 1970 (collectors sets only)
* Kennedy 1976 (only collectors sets produced with 40% silver)

Copper-nickel clad half dollars

* Kennedy 1971–1974, 1977–1986, 1988–2001 (general circulation issues)
* Kennedy 1987, 2002–present (collectors only)
o Kennedy Bicentennial 1975–1976 (all dated 1776–1976.)

1830 Capped Bust

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