Fifty Cent Piece Basics For Beginning Collectors

Posted By on Jan 28, 2016 |


Fifty cent pieces are sometimes overlooked by fledgling coin collectors in favor of larger and often more valuable silver dollars. However, half dollars have been minted in the United States since nearly two short decades after the country gained its independence from Great Britain, and unlike their dollar counterparts, they come in several designs that the average collector can afford. Following are the six types of silver fifty cent pieces that the United States Mint has produced since the year 1794 that range from easily affordable to wildly expensive.

Bust Fifty Cent Pieces

Bust fifty cent pieces were issued from 1794 through 1839. Capped Bust varieties in good condition that were minted between 1807 and 1839 have a market value of at least $45, while their uncirculated counterparts command over $1,000. Early Bust half dollars that were produced during 1794-95 have are valued of upwards of $27,000. All Bust fifty cent pieces feature a bust of Lady liberty on the front and a stylized depiction of a bald eagle on the back.

Seated Liberty Fifty Cent Pieces

Produced by the United States Mint from 1839 through 1891, the Seated Liberty fifty cent piece has a minimum value of $30. Uncirculated Seated Liberties range from several hundred dollars to $1,200 in value. The front of all Seated Liberty half dollars features Lady Liberty seated on a large rock holding a small flag and surrounded by stars. The back of the coin shows an eagle clutching arrows in its claws and a shield covering its heart.

Barber Fifty Cent Pieces

Barber fifty cent pieces were produced from 1892 through 1915. They range in value from $23 to $29,000. Designed by renowned United States Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, the coin depicts Lady Liberty’s profile with a wreath of laurel wrapped around her head. The bald eagle on the reverse side is holding an olive branch in its claws and holding a ribbon in its beak inscribed with the United States motto E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for the phrase, “out of many, one.”

Walking Liberty Fifty Cent Pieces

Price for Walking Liberty half dollars in good condition begin at $19 and range upwards of $5,500 for uncirculated coins. Minted from 1916 through 1947, Walking Liberties are considered by many to be the most beautiful of all of the half dollars produced by the United States Mint. The front of the coin shows a full-length Lady Liberty striding toward the dawn of a new day with the Stars and Stripes in the background. The reverse side of the coin shows the customary bald eagle perched on a high mountain aerie with wings outstretched.

Franklin Fifty Cent Piece

The United States Mint produced Franklin half dollars from 1948 through 1963. Unlike its predecessors, this fifty cent piece depicts Benjamin Franklin rather than the traditional Lady Liberty, and the reverse side shows a stylized version of the Liberty Bell.  Franklin half dollars range in value from $12 for coins in good condition to $400 for uncirculated proof coins. Because they have no rare varieties or dates, they are among the most affordable silver half dollar pieces on today’s market. 

Kennedy Fifty Cent Pieces

Created as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy half dollar has been minted since 1964 and is still in production today. The coin features a profile of John F. Kennedy on the front and the Presidential seal on the reverse side. Kennedy half dollars that were minted after the year 1971 are made from a copper-nickel combination and are only worth face value. Other prices range from $3 through $500 for a special-issue coin with silver matte finish made in 1998.

Half dollars are frequently found in change jars and among rolled coins. Keep your eyes peeled for these treasures, and if you have questions about their value, be sure to have a professional coin appraisal — you may be pleasantly surprised.