In 1791, President George Washington put pressure on Congress to create the United States Mint in order to supply America with official coinage. Officially authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, the Mint was established in Philadelphia and called “Ye Old Mint.” The first pieces to be struck at the Mint were copper cents in 1793, followed by silver coins in 1794.
Half Dollars were among the earliest silver coins created by the United States Mint for general circulation. The Half Dollar Coin was first created in 1794 with the Flowing Hair Half Dollar design. In 1796, the Draped Bust Half Dollar was introduced and became the second Half Dollar Coin to be used by the nation. Both of the coins were designed by Philadelphia Mint engraver, Robert Scot and are now known as Early Half Dollars.
Composed of 89% silver and 11% copper, the Flowing Hair Half Dollar and Draped Bust Half Dollar were important to commerce because there were no other coins circulating of equal face value during their production years. Today, Early Half Dollars attract a large following and are incredibly popular with numismatists in America and across the globe.
Initially issued in 1974, the Flowing Hair Half Dollar was the first Half Dollar Coin to be struck by the United States Mint. During the first year of production, 5,300 coins were minted, and another 18,164 followed in 1795. Issued for just two years, the Flowing Half Dollar was created by Robert Scot who worked as an engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.
The obverse of the Flowing Hair Half Dollar features Lady Liberty, facing right. Her hair sits loosely around her neck and is flowing in a gentle breeze. She is encircled by fifteen stars (eight to the left and seven to the right), as well as the inscription LIBERTY and the mintage year. On the reverse of the coin is an American bald eagle perched on a cloud. The eagle has widespread wings and is surrounded by a wreath, which is enclosed by the engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Many different varieties of the Flowing Hair Half Dollar exist because the dies were handmade. The most common variety is called the “Normal Date” type which has no errors. Then there’s the “Recut Date” variety featuring a double stamp of the 1795 date. With these pieces, the first strike of the date was stamped too close to the edge of the coin, and a higher positioned date had to be cut into the die. The coins were struck again but still showed signs of the original date. A much rarer variety is the Flowing Hair Half Dollar featuring extra leaves on the wreath depicted on the coin’s reverse. The majority of the coins show only two leaves positioned below the eagle’s wings (those closest to the eagle’s legs and pointing towards the bird), whereas this variety features three under each wing.
Pieces dated 1794 are much rarer than the 1795 Early Half Dollars with the Flowing Hair design and have been considered some of the most valuable coins ever struck by the United States Mint.
The second Early Half Dollar, otherwise known as the Draped Bust Half Dollar, was issued from 1796 to 1807 and struck with two different reverses. There are actually a large number of varieties of the Draped Bust Half Dollar because the majority of the design elements had to be punched into the die by hand. Also created by Robert Scot, the coin replaced the Flowing Hair Half Dollar after Congress realized that the nation was dissatisfied with the first Half Dollar pieces.
All Draped Bust Half Dollars feature a right-facing Lady Liberty with her bust draped and partially visible. Her curled hair is flowing past her shoulder, and a ribbon can be seen at the back of her head. She is encircled by thirteen, fifteen or sixteen stars and accompanied by the mintage year, along with the inscription LIBERTY. The coin was originally issued with fifteen stars but a new star was added when Tennessee joined the union in June 1796. Having said that, the 1797 Half Dollars only show fifteen stars. A four-year gap in production followed and, when resumed in 1801, the coin displayed just thirteen stars to represent the original thirteen states.
Draped Bust Half Dollars dated 1796 and 1797 were struck with the “Small Eagle” reverse. The eagle is facing right with outspread wings and standing on a cloud. A wreath tied together with a ribbon surrounds the bird, as does the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below the ribbon is 1/2 to indicate the coin’s Half Dollar value.
As previously mentioned, the Draped Bust Half Dollar was not struck again until 1801, which was the year when the reverse design was changed. All coins produced from 1801 have the “Heraldic Eagle” reverse. The eagle appears more impressive, with wings spread and a ribbon with the inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM in its beak. In one talon is a cluster of arrows and in the other is an olive branch. There are also thirteen stars above the birds head and a shield in front of its body. Surrounding the entire image is the engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The Early Half Dollars with the Draped Bust design that were made in 1796 and 1797 are the most scarce and have the lowest mintage of just 3,918 coins.
Now over two hundred years old, Early Half Dollars have real eye appeal and can be found in a range of grades and conditions. As most collectors are concerned with the condition of these coins, you should know that the well-preserved pieces have become rare collectibles. Not forgetting the countless investors who are also attracted to Flowing Hair Half Dollars and Draped Bust Half Dollars because of the age, history and value of these pieces.
As so many different varieties of Flowing Hair Half Dollars and Draped Bust Half Dollars were struck, you have the option to assemble a type set or acquire just one coin from each Early Half Dollar series. However, these historical Half Dollar Coins were produced in limited mintages in their early years, making the original editions pricier and harder to come by.
If you want to diversify your investments or enhance your collection with Early Half Dollars, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. Capital Gold Group can not only provide you with professional advice regarding these coins but also help you to obtain wonderful examples of the Flowing Hair Half Dollar and Draped Bust Half Dollar.