The Half Dollar was the workhorse
of the early days.
The half dollar was a very important coin in US History. It was one of the first three silver coins ever to be struck at the US Mint. The other two coins were the Silver Dollar and
the silver Half Dime. Then, the importance of this coin far outweighed its need today in normal commerce. Today, it’s almost never
seen in day to day transactions. For the most part, if you want to purchase them you would need to go to a bank.
Coinage at the US Mint was very slow in the early days. Congress passed laws in regards to the spelling that was to be displayed on
the coins. Also, the denominations, metal content and design needed to be agreed upon. All in all it took over two years to make the first silver coins after the copper ones were already established.
Part of the reason that silver and gold
coinage took so long to begin rooted in Congress. Congressional leaders thought it was important to require the chief coiner and assayer to post $10,000.00 bonds each in order to work with precious metals. In 18th Century America this was an insurmountable obstacle set by Congress. Finally, with the
help of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Congress lowered the bonds to $5000.00 for the chief coiner and $1000.00 for the assayer.
With the bonds lowered, the Mint Director himself David Rittenhouse posted the $5000.00 for Henry Voight. Also, Albion Cox
was able to secure his bond of $1000.00 through Charles Gilchrist. When the bonds were posted, coinage of silver and gold coins could begin.
The first silver coins made at the US Mint were Silver Dollars. However, because of the
size and weight of these coins it wasn't long till the presses broke and needed to be replaced. The mint was only able to coin
1800 pieces before this happened. The coin that was to represent America needed to temporarily step down and allow the half dollar to provide much needed coins for
commerce. The smaller coin was both smaller and lighter making it easier to strike in large quantities to meet demand.
The Half Dollar has undergone many design changes over the years. These changes are listed in chronological order below.
Flowing Hair Type (1794-1795)
Draped Bust Type Small Eagle (1796-1797)
Draped Bust Type Heraldic Eagle (1801-1807)
Capped Bust Type Letter Edge (1807-1836)
Capped Bust Typ Reed 50CENTS (1836-1837)
Capped Bust Typ Reed HALF DOL (1838-1839)
Seated Liberty Type no Motto (1839-1866)
Seated Liberty Type Arr and Rays (1853 only)
Seated Liberty Type Arr no Rays (1854-1855)
Seated Liberty Type Motto (1866-1891)
Seated Liberty Type Arrows (1873-1874)
Barber Type (1892-1915)
Walking Liberty Type (1916-1947)
Franklin Type (1948-1963)
Kennedy Type 90% Silver (1964 only)
Kennedy Type 40% Silver (1965-1970)
Kennedy Type Clad (1971-Date)
Kennedy Type Bicentennial (1976 only)
Half Dollar Back to Coin Collecting Homepage
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