Capped Bust Half Dollar

Posted by on March 4, 2012
Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Capped (1807-1815, 1817-1836) 13.48 89% silver, 10% copper

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Capped (1836-1839) 13.36 90% silver, 10% copper
1838 Capped Bust Half Dollar w/reeded edge & 'half dol.'

1838 Capped Bust Half Dollar w/reeded edge & 'half dol.'

The Capped Bust Half Dollar was struck between 1807 thru 1839.  There are rumors of Proof coins being struck in 1817 thru 1819, but only from 1820 through the end of the series are known Proof coins known.  Usually about five or ten Proofs were coined each year although as many as twenty had been struck for a couple of the years.

This silver coin has a myriad of variations, far beyond the scope of this short article, although the 1817/4 is highly sought after and carries a heavy price of tens of thousands of dollars for a G4 and then up from there for higher grades of the few that are known.


There are three design types…

First there is the Capped Bust Half Dollar with Lettered Edge. In 1807 to 1836 these silver half dollars have a “Lettered Edge” which reads “FIFTY CENTS OF HALF A DOLLAR”.  These are 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper, weigh 13.48 grams, ranging from 32 to 33 millimeters in diameter, and designed by John Reich.

1824 Capped Bust Half Dollar w/letterd edge

1824 Capped Bust Half Dollar w/letterd edge

The obverse has Liberty bust facing left with a cap having “LIBERTY” on its band.  The date is under her at the rim of the coin and thirteen stars encircling her along the rim.  Seven stars on the left and six on the right.

The reverse has the bald eagle with wings spread and a shield on its breast.  The eagle has an olive branch clutched in its left talon and three arrows in its right.  “50 C.” is under the eagle by the rim. and encircling the upper two thirds of the coin along the rim is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.  Above the eagle and below the legend is a banner with “E PLURIBUS UMUN” on it.

The second is the Capped Bust Half Dollar with Reeded Edge and “CENTS” on the Reverse which was also struck in 1836 and 1837, being adapted by Christian Gobrecht.  The silver content was changed to 90% silver and 10% copper and the weight dropped to 13.36 grams and the diameter was set at 30 millimeter.  The reeded edge was incidental to the adaption of the new technology of a “closed collar”.

1836 Caped Bust Half Dollar w/reeded edge '50 cents'

1836 Caped Bust Half Dollar w/reeded edge '50 cents'

The obverse had been modified to fit the new silver coins size but is the same design however the stars are distinctively smaller.  The new presses allowed a better strike creating a sharper image.  The reverse still has the bald eagle and legend, whose lettering is noticeably smaller, but the banner with its motto has been left off and the denomination changed to “50 CENTS”.

The third is the Capped Bust Half Dollar with Reeded Edge with “HALF DOL.” on Reverse and struck in 1838 and 1839.  These silver half dollars are almost the same design as the second type with the exchange in denomination to “HALF DOL.”.  The other difference has to do with Mint locations.

The Capped Bust Half Dollar up to 1838 were all struck at the Philadelphia Mint which has no mint mark.  However when the New Orleans Mint was opened in 1838 they struck about 20 Proof coins for this series bearing the mint mark “O” which appears on the obverse above the date.

In 1839 New Orleans struck Proof coins again but only about 10, and then 178,976 business strikes meanwhile the Philadelphia Mint struck 1,392,976 coins for circulation in the final year for the Capped Bust Half Dollar series.

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