Composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, the Reeded Edge Half Dollar was a short-lived series, minted only from 1836 to 1839. The coin is also referred to as the Capped Bust Half Dollar, a design by John Reich that was issued between 1807 and 1836. However, the Capped Bust Reeded Edge Half Dollar is the creation of Christian Gobrecht and one of the first American coins made using the United States Mint’s new steam press of 1836.
The obverse of the Reeded Edge Half Dollar features a modified Capped Bust Lady Liberty, facing left. She is wearing a mob cap secured with a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY. He bust is draped in a gown or cloth, which is secured by a brooch on her shoulder. Seven stars are shown to her left and six are displayed to the right, with the date engraved below.
On the coin’s reverse is an eagle perched on an olive branch and holding a set of three arrows. The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and 50 CENTS. or HALF DOL. surround the eagle.
In March 1836, the United States Mint began using its new steam-powered press, the same technology used for coining the Reeded Edge Half Dollars. The press produced coins with higher precision and was first used to make the Half Dollar Coins in November of that year. This new machinery also enabled the Mint to improve production speed. Prior to the machine’s arrival, workers had to use two presses and seven hands to handle the metal. With the steam press, only one hand (worker) was needed to feed the metal discs to strike the coins.
The new steam press also produced coins with uniform diameters and sharper details. Each piece was coined within a close collar, meaning they had a raised border that better protected them from wear and allowed them to be stacked more easily. The Reeded Edge Half Dollars had the honor of being the first silver coins to be struck by the United States Mint using the new technology.
By 1838, the United States Mint decided to modify the design of the Reeded Edge Half Dollar, starting with the denomination on the reverse. Earlier issues display 50 CENTS on the reverse, whereas all coins minted from 1838 feature HALF DOL. Other changes were made to the coin, such as the thickness of the letters on the reverse and the details of the eagle.
While all Reeded Edge Half Dollars are valuable finds, the rarest date from the series is 1836. Mintages have often been listed as 1,200, but the number of genuine surviving examples from that year suggest that this number is too low. The 1838-O Reeded Edge Half Dollar is also one of the rarest and most valuable varieties. It is believed that only 20 1838-O (New Orleans) Reeded Edge Half Dollars were minted, most of which have a proof-like finish. Interestingly, these coins were actually produced in early 1839 using the old die. They were also the first ever Half Dollar Coins to be struck at the New Orleans Mint and are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You can always depend on Capital Gold Group to find you any coin of your choosing. Although this series only lasted for a short time, it did enjoy generous mintages, except for the 1836 and 1838-O issues. As you can imagine, excellent uncirculated specimens are also especially scarce and rarely seen. The 1838 and 1839 issues are slightly easier to acquire, each boasting a mintage of over 1 million coins.
All Reeded Edge Half Dollars have grown in popularity in recent years, which is partly thanks to the release of the publication titled A Registry of Die Varieties of Reeded Edge Half Dollars 1836–1839. The book is written by researcher, Dick Graham who catalogued each of the different dies used to strike these sought-after coins.
For further advice about investing in Reeded Edge Half Dollars or more information on how to place an order, we welcome you to get in touch at your earliest convenience. As always, you can call us or send a message via our Contact page.