Half Dollar Value and History

The half dollar has been a cornerstone of American currency since the inception of the United States Mint. Over the years, it has undergone several design changes, each reflecting the cultural and historical context of its time. The value and history of the half dollar are rich and varied, with certain editions of the coin becoming highly sought after by collectors. Here's a look at the evolution of the half dollar, from its early days to the present; continue reading to learn more about half dollar value and history.

half dollar value

AUCTION RECORD: $10,350 • MS60

Image source: PCGS


Flowing Hair Half Dollars (1794-1795)

The Flowing Hair half dollar, minted in 1794 and 1795, was the first half dollar coin issued by the United States Mint. Designed by Robert Scot, it featured the profile of Lady Liberty with flowing hair on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Due to its limited mintage and historical significance, the Flowing Hair half dollar is highly valuable among collectors.

Draped Bust Half Dollars (1796-1807)

Following the Flowing Hair design, the Draped Bust half dollar introduced a more refined depiction of Lady Liberty, designed by Robert Scot. This series is distinguished by Liberty's draped bust on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. The Draped Bust half dollars are prized for their beauty and rarity, especially the early editions with small eagle reverse designs.

Capped Bust Half Dollars (1807-1839)

The Capped Bust half dollar, introduced in 1807, featured a design by John Reich. Lady Liberty now wore a cap, symbolizing freedom, and the design included more detailed and artistic elements. This series underwent a slight design change in 1836, transitioning to a reeded edge from a lettered edge, and adjusting the portrait and eagle designs slightly. Capped Bust half dollars are valued both for their historical significance and aesthetic appeal.

Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)

The Seated Liberty half dollars, designed by Christian Gobrecht, depicted Lady Liberty seated on a rock, holding a shield in one hand and a liberty cap on a pole in the other. This design saw several variants, including the addition of mottoes and changes in the eagle design on the reverse. The Seated Liberty half dollars reflect a long period of American history, including the Civil War, making them a fascinating series for collectors.

Barber Half Dollars (1892-1915)

Named after their designer, Charles E. Barber, the Barber half dollars feature a profile of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap and a laurel wreath on the obverse, and an eagle on the reverse. The simplicity and elegance of the design have made Barber half dollars popular among collectors, though they were once criticized for their lack of artistic flair.

Walking Liberty Half Dollars (1916-1947)

The Walking Liberty half dollar, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful U.S. coins. It features an iconic image of Liberty striding forward on the obverse and an eagle perched on a rock on the reverse. Due to their stunning design and silver content, Walking Liberty half dollars are highly sought after by collectors.

Franklin Half Dollars (1948-1963)

Featuring Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse, the Franklin half dollar was designed by John R. Sinnock. This series was a departure from the traditional depictions of Liberty, instead honoring an American Founding Father. Franklin half dollars are collected not only for their silver content but also for their historical and cultural significance.

Kennedy Half Dollars (1964-Present)

Introduced in 1964, shortly after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, the Kennedy half dollar features a portrait of Kennedy on the obverse and a modified Presidential Seal on the reverse. Originally minted in 90% silver in 1964 and in 40% silver from 1965 to 1970, the Kennedy half dollar is now minted in a copper-nickel clad composition for circulation. Special silver collector editions continue to be produced. Kennedy half dollars hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans, making them highly collectible.

Buy Half dollars online at Bullion Shark:

Flowing Hair Half Dollars
Draped Bust Half Dollars
Capped Bust Half Dollars
Seated Liberty Half Dollars
Barber Half Dollars
Walking Liberty Half Dollars
Franklin Half Dollars
Kennedy Half Dollars

We carry six different types of half dollars, all of them have a face value of .50c. Although each of them has the same face value, all of their designs differ. The half dollar is currently the largest U.S. coin in circulation.

The Bust Half Dollar was the first half dollar ever minted in the United States. It was first minted in 1794. The next half dollar minted by the U.S. mint was the Seated Liberty Half Dollar. Like all other Seated Liberty coinage, the Seated Liberty Half Dollar was extremely popular. Next in line was the Barber Half Dollar. After the Barber Half Dollar was the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was the only half dollar with a full body on its obverse. Thereafter was the Franklin Half Dollar which came to be because mint director Nellie Tayloe Ross was an admirer of Franklin. The last half dollar to be produced and what is currently in circulation is the Kennedy Half Dollar. 

All of the half dollars prior to 1965 contained 90% silver, after that from 1965-1970 all half dollars only contained 40% silver. In 1971 no more half dollars with the intent of circulation were produced with a silver content.

Here are all of U.S. half dollars and the years of the mintage:

Bust half dollar: 1794-1839

Seated Liberty half dollar: 1839-1891

Barber half dollar: 1892-1915

Walking Liberty half dollar: 1916-1947

Franklin half dollar: 1948-1963

Kennedy half dollar: 1964-1970 (from 1971 on were no longer silver, the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar was the only year minted in 90% silver)



What factors influence the half dollar value?
The half dollar value is influenced by its condition (grade), rarity, historical significance, silver content for older issues, and collector demand.
How much is a silver half dollar worth?
The value of a silver half dollar, particularly those minted before 1965, is primarily based on its silver content, with additional value added for rare dates, mint marks, or exceptional condition.
What is the half dollar value of a Kennedy half dollar?
Kennedy half dollar values vary; those minted from 1964 (90% silver) and from 1965-1970 (40% silver) hold value above face value due to their silver content, while clad versions from 1971 onwards generally hold face value, except for collector editions or high-grade examples.
Can the condition of a half dollar significantly affect its value?
Yes, the condition or grade of a half dollar can significantly affect its value. Higher-grade coins, especially uncirculated or proof versions, are often worth more to collectors.
What is the half dollar value of Franklin half dollars?
Franklin half dollars, minted from 1948 to 1963 and containing 90% silver, have a base value tied to their silver content, with premiums for higher grades or key dates.
Are any half dollars worth more than their silver value?
Yes, certain key date half dollars, error coins, and those in exceptionally high grades can be worth considerably more than their silver content to collectors.
What is the most valuable half dollar?
The most valuable half dollar could be the 1797 Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar, among others, depending on condition and rarity. Collectible versions of the Kennedy half dollar, especially in high grades or with errors, can also be quite valuable.
How does silver price affect half dollar value?
For half dollars containing silver (pre-1965 and some later special issues), the value fluctuates with the silver market. As silver prices rise, so does the base value of these coins.
What is the half dollar value of Barber half dollars?
Barber half dollars, minted from 1892 to 1915 and composed of 90% silver, have a base value from their silver content, with additional value for rare dates, mint marks, and higher condition grades.
Are circulated half dollars worth collecting?
Yes, circulated half dollars can be worth collecting, especially if they are key dates, have low mintages, or are part of a complete series collection.
What half dollar issues are considered key dates for collectors?
Key date half dollars vary by series but include the 1916-D Walking Liberty, the 1921 and 1921-D Walking Liberty, and the 1955 Franklin, among others, due to their low mintages or high demand.
How can I determine the half dollar value of coins in my collection?
Determining the half dollar value involves assessing the coin's series, date, mint mark, condition, and current silver prices for silver issues. Consultation with coin value guides, dealers, or professional grading services can provide accurate valuations.
What is the half dollar value of a Walking Liberty half dollar?
Walking Liberty half dollars (1916-1947), with their 90% silver content, are valued both for their silver and collectible value, which varies significantly based on year, mint mark, and condition.
Do modern half dollars have any collectible value?
Modern half dollars, particularly special issue or commemorative editions and those in proof or high-grade conditions, can have collectible value above face value.
Where is the best place to sell valuable half dollars?
Valuable half dollars can be sold through reputable coin dealers, coin shows, online auctions, or numismatic forums, where collectors seek specific pieces to add to their collections.