There was a time when silver half-dollars where everywhere. People carried them around in their pockets and purses, and they were more popular than paper money. They were more popular than silver dollars, due to their more compact size and weight but high value. Sadly, in 2002, the U.S. Mint decreased the production of silver half-dollars, leading to a decrease in their circulation.
However, the good news is that the silver half-dollar value is still excellent for those looking to collect and sell antique coins. In fact, there are many silver half-dollars worth far more than silver dollars. Below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about silver half dollars, including which the most valuable silver half dollars are.
What is a Silver Half-Dollar?A silver half-dollar is a coin worth 50 U.S. cents, or half a dollar. First minted in 1974, these coins saw heavy use for the first half of the 20th Century, including in many casinos where they were the coin of choice. Until 1965, the value of the silver bullion wasn’t as valuable as the coin itself (less than 50 cents of silver was used).
However, by 1965, the value of silver had risen to the point that the U.S. Mint began to introduce coins with a much lower silver content, which contained more cupronickel and copper. Between 1965 and 1970, the silver half-dollar only had about 40% silver.
By 1971, the composition of the half-dollar was changed to match that of the dime and quarter. No longer are half-dollars made of silver—instead, they’re made from 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel. This means that silver half-dollars produced before 1964 tend to have a much higher value than their modern counterparts.
The 1964 Kennedy silver half-dollar was produced in large quantities, about 430 million of them. That is roughly the same number of ALL the silver half-dollars produced between 1916 and 1963, including both the Walking Liberty and Franklin half-dollars. The truth is that silver half-dollars are a lot rarer than other valuable coins, which is one reason for their high value.
The Most Prominent Silver Half-Dollars
As expected, the more recent silver half-dollars are much easier to find and collect than the original ones. Only 5,300 of the 1794 Flowing Hair silver half-dollars were produced, with 30,000 1801 Draped Bust coins.
Here are a few of the most prominent silver half-dollar coins:
- Kennedy Half-Dollars – As mentioned above, the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar was the last one to be made using silver. It is 12.5 grams of 90% silver, it was authorized by the U.S. Congress a month after President Kennedy’s death. Initially, only proof coins were struck, with 70,000 coins being sold off by the end of the first day of sales. In the end, 430 million Kennedy half-dollars were minted and put into circulation. There is a 2014 version of the Kennedy half-dollar made of 99.99% gold.
- Draped/Capped Bust Half Dollars – The Draped Bust silver half-dollar was produced after universal dissatisfaction with the Flowing Hair coins first minted in 1794. The coin bore a portrait by Gilbert Stuart depicting Lady Liberty with long curling hair and a large bust. The rim bore the words “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR”, and the reverse bears a bald eagle.
The Capped Bust silver half-dollar was produced from 1807 to 1839. The Lady Liberty portrayed in the Draped Bust half-dollar has a Turban on her head.
- Barber Half Dollars – The Barber half-dollars were created by Charles E. Barber, the Chief Engraver of the United States Bureau of the Mint. Minted between 1892 and 1916, they were made of 90% silver and 10% copper. They are not rare or hard to obtain, but their value is fairly high.
- Walking/Seated Liberty Half Dollars – The Walking Liberty half-dollar was made between 1916 and 1947, and was used to replace the Barber half-dollars. The coin shows Lady Liberty striding toward the sun, and it is believed to be one of the most beautiful coins in U.S. history. It was made from 90% silver and 10% copper. A gold version was created for its centennial in 2016.
The Seated Liberty half-dollar was made between 1836 and 1891, and is one of the most common of the half-dollars. It features the Goddess of Liberty in a seated position, holding a Liberty pole. The coins bear the mint marks of New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City, where they were minted. These are one of the most popular coins for collectors.
- Franklin Half Dollars – These coins were minted between 1948 and 1963, before the Kennedy half-dollars. They contained a 90% silver content and 10% copper content. Their value in 2016 was estimated at $6.48, more than 1300% of their original value. They feature the head of Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell.
Of course, these are the most important of the silver half-dollars. There are a few that may not be as common or prominent, but have a higher value (due to rarity or minting mistakes). Here are the highest-valued silver half-dollar coins:
- 1892-O Micro “O” Barber Half Dollar, produced in the New Orleans mint, is a highly rare coin, one that’s worth around $2,000.
- 1921-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar was only produced in a quantity around 208,000, and a Grade-4 coin is worth $275.
- 1892-O Barber Half Dollar, produced in New Orleans, was only produced in quantities around 390,000. Very few survive to this day, making them rare and worth $295.
- 1998-S Matte Finish Kennedy Half Dollar, produced as a commemorative piece in honor of Robert F. Kennedy, was only produced in a quantity of 62,350. With their beautiful matte finish and high scarcity, it’s no wonder they’re worth over $200 a coin.
What is the Value of a Coin?If you were to melt a coin down for its metal value, you could get a few bucks for each silver half dollar. After all, with the high price of silver, you can make money selling the metal. Any coin from the Kennedy half-dollar to the Barber half-dollar is worth around $6.50 in melt value.
On the other hand, if you have the coins, it would be a waste to sell them only for melt value. Remember that a lot of silver half-dollars are collector’s items, so you can earn more money by selling the coin to a collector who is interested in their collector’s value rather than simple melt value.
Why You Need a Professional AppraisalThis is where a professional appraisal comes in handy!
You may have these coins in your safe or storage, perhaps passed to you by your parents or grandparents who collected the coins. You may see them as a cute piece of memorabilia or even a worthwhile investment. Either way, you should always find out how much the coins are worth before trying to sell them.
Let us help you. Twerys specializes in rare and valuable coins, and we’re happy to help you figure out the value of your coin. We’ll give the coin a thorough examination to test everything from its metal composition to its appearance to any existing damage to the coin. We have records of all the most popular coins, as well as the rarest, highest-valued ones. We’ll give the coin a thorough exam and give you the most accurate valuation of your coin possible.
In the end, you could find yourself holding something worth a lot more than you expected. That old coin may actually be worth a pretty penny. With our help, you can know exactly how much your silver half-dollars are worth.
A silver half-dollar is more than just a beautiful coin—it’s a piece of history! You should be interested in finding out how much it’s worth, not just because you want to make money selling it. A piece of American history is definitely something to keep, and it can be a good back-up plan in case you need quick cash. Let us help you find out exactly what the coins are worth!
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