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Half Dollars

 

The U.S. Congress authorized the Half Dollar in 1792 as one of America’s original
coins.  The size and silver weight of the coin was based on the Spanish 4 Reales
coin, which was valued at one-half of the 8 Reales Silver Dollar (also known as
a “piece of eight”).  The Half Dollar was struck in .8924 silver until 1836 when
the composition changed slightly to .900 silver.  The .900 silver Half Dollar
continued to be struck until 1964;  the level of silver changed to .400 in 1965,
and all Half Dollars minted for circulation since 1971 have been struck in
copper-nickel. The .400 silver Half Dollars were the only U.S. coins ever
made for circulation using this silver composition. 

 

The first Half Dollar struck by the U.S. Mint was the Flowing Hair coin 1794 and
1795.  The Draped Bust design was introduced in 1796 with the Small Eagle
reverse, but this coin was made only in 1796 and 1797.  The next Half Dollar was
the Draped Bust with Heraldic Eagle reverse design between 1801 and 1807,
followed by the Capped Bust design from 1807 to 1839.  The first Half Dollar with
a reeded edge was the 1836 coin. 

 

The Liberty Seated Half Dollar was issued from 1839 to 1891, and the Barber Half
Dollar was struck from 1892 to 1915.  In 1916, the U.S. Mint first struck one of the
most famous and beautiful of all U.S. coins – the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. 
 Designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, the obverse shows Liberty in a
flowing gown while the reverse depicts a stunning eagle.  The Franklin Half
Dollar in 1948 was the first circulating U.S. coin to feature a real person other than
a former President.    It honors Benjamin Franklin.
 
 
The Franklin Half Dollar was a short-lived that was issued only from 1948 to 1963.
 It was unexpectedly replaced with the Kennedy Half Dollar in 1964 as a tribute
to President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in November 1963.  With
the exception of 1976 when a special one-time-only reverse design was used to
commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the
Kennedy Half Dollar has been issued continuously since 1964.  Due to a lack of
usage in circulation, however, this coin was made only for collectors in very
limited editions since 2002.  The 2001 coin was the last to be released into
circulation.