Draped Bust Half Dollar

Posted by on March 5, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Draped (1796, 1797,1801-1803, 1805-1807) 13.48 89% silver, 10% copper
SC draped bust heraldic half dollar hg Draped Bust Half Dollar

1806 Draped Bust Half Dollar heraldic eagle reverse

The Draped Bust Half Dollar was minted from 1796 thru 1807.  There are two types.  The “small eagle reverse” which was designed by John Eckstein and struck in 1796 and 1797 for a total of 3,918.  The “large eagle reverse” or “herald eagle reverse” was designed by Roberts Scot and struck from 1801 thru 1807 for 1,600,787 silver coins.  The grand total of both types was 1,604,705.

The Draped Bust Half Dollars are 89.2% silver and 10.76% weighing 13.5 grams and 32.5 millimeters in diameter.  The edges are lettered “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR” with various ornaments between the word.

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The obverse for the Draped Bust Half Dollar was designed by Robert Scot based on a drawing by Gilbert Stuart.  Stuart was displeased with the resulting dies and disowned the drawing.  Stuart wasn’t associated with the Capped Bust design until 1887 when the American Journal of Numismatics printed an article about his contribution.  Liberty is facing right with long hair in a bow. The date is under her by the lower rim.  “LIBERTY” arches over her along the rim.

There are stars along the rim encircling Liberty on the left and right.  The number of stars is one of the many variations that occur for this series. 1796 started off with fifteen stars, eight on the left and seven on the right and during that year Tennessee was added to the Union as a state and a sixteenth star was added to the right on those struck later in that year.  However in 1797 there are fifteen stars again probably to use up dies that were already cut and waiting for the date to be added.  Later thirteen stars was settled upon, seven on the left and six on the right.

BS 1797drapedbusthalfdollarsmalleaglerev 300x151 Draped Bust Half Dollar

1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar small eagle reverse

The Small Eagle Reverse of 1796 and 1797 has a bald eagle in the center with opened wings standing on a cloud.  The eagle is encircled by a wreath.  The left side of the wreath is an olive branch and the right a palm branch, they are tied together by a ribbon in the center under the cloud.  Under this bow is the half sign as a “1” over a “_” and a “2” under both.  The half is at the bottom center by the rim.  Around the rest of the rim, encircling the wreath is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.

The Heraldic Eagle or ‘Eagle with Shield’ has a bald eagle with wings spread and the national shield over its chest.  In its right talon are thirteen arrows and in its left an olive branch.  The eagle has a banner in its beak with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” ON IT.  Above the eagle between its wings is an evenly distributed field of stars, and above this is an arch of clouds.  Around the rim, encircling the eagle is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.

There were no Proofs struck of the Draped Bust Half Dollar however there are a few high grade coins available.  Almost any of the ‘Small Eagle’ type is considered rare in any condition.  There are a large number of week strikes, usually around the center of the coin.

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