The Barber Half Dollar replaced the Liberty Seated Half Dollar and received mixed reviews when it was first released in 1892. Many reactions were unfavorable and even American sculptor and coin designer, Saint-Gaudens described the piece as “beneath criticism.” It’s clear that the Barber Half Dollar wasn’t as loved as some of the other coins previously minted by the United States Mint; however, it has now become a desirable coin among collectors and investors.
On the obverse of the Barber Half Dollar is a right-facing head of Liberty wearing a crown made from an olive branch and a headband inscribed LIBERTY. She is surrounded by thirteen stars, with the engravings IN GOD WE TRUST above her head and the year of minting below.
The reverse depicts an eagle with widespread wings, facing right. Situated behind a shield and below thirteen stars, the bird is holding an olive branch in one talon and a cluster of arrows in the other. A scroll is shown in the eagle’s beak with the inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM. Other markings on the reverse include UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR.
In 1890, United States Mint director. James P. Kimball convinced Congress that American coinage needed updating. Congress passed a law allowing for the redesign of any denomination, as long as the coin had been in use for at least 25 years and the Mint got the Secretary of the Treasury’s approval. Interestingly, Kimball could have simply changed the Half Dollar Coin any time he wanted, just like the Mint had always done prior to Congress passing the new law.
After the signing of the 1890 Act, Kimball told the Treasury to invite ten well-known artists to come up with new designs for the Half Dollar Coin, as well as the Quarter and Dime. The invitees were less than impressed with the offer, especially when they found out that only the winner would be awarded a cash prize for their work. To keep things fair, the artists insisted they all be paid for their submitted designs, with the winner receiving more than everyone else. As the U.S. Mint only had enough money to pay the winning entry, all of the invitees pulled out of the competition.
Shortly after the failure of the original contest, the Treasury decided to invite everyone and anyone to submit designs for the coins. Hundreds of people entered the new competition, and the submissions were judged by the likes of Charles E. Barber, Henry Mitchel and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In June 1891, the judges got together to discuss the entries, all of which were rejected. It is believed that Saint-Gaudens was the one who deemed all of the designs unfit for use.
Having exhausted its options, the U.S. Mint asked its engraver, Charles E. Barber to prepare new designs for the silver coins. Named after the man himself, the Barber Half Dollar made its debut in 1892 and continued to be minted until 1915. The four mint facilities responsible for striking Barber Half Dollars over the years included Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S) and Denver (D).
Although 1892-O is the only major rarity, there are a few scarce Barber Half Dollar issues, such as the 1892-S, 1893-S and 1896-S. The coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint during the last 3 years of the series are sought-after because they have a low mintage, with 1914 boasting the lowest mintage of 125,000 pieces. The 1897-S, 1897-O, 1901-S and 1904-S are also worth more than the common Barber Half Dollar dates. Proofs were struck every year of the series at the Philadelphia Mint only and all issues have mintages under one thousand coins, apart from the first year when just over a thousand pieces were produced.
Whether you want to own a handful of Barber Half Dollars or collect the entire series, anything is possible when you purchase these coins through Capital Gold Group. Obviously, lower grade coins are less expensive and can be obtained quickly but we can help you to get your hands on higher grade pieces as well.
Regardless of condition and mintage numbers, every Barber Half Dollar has historical and intrinsic value, making them ideal for collectors and investors alike. Composed of 90% silver, these coins also make wonderful gifts and can be passed down through generations for decades or even centuries.
For further advice on purchasing Barber Half Dollars or to speak to one of our experts about placing an order, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.