Half dollar (United States coin)
Half dollar coins have been produced
United States Mint coin production
* In 1916, both the Mercury and Barber designs were used for the 10¢ coins.* In 1916, both the Standing Liberty and Barber designs were used for the 25¢ coins.* In 1921, both the Peace and Morgan designs were used for the $1 coins....

 nearly every year since the inception of the United States Mint
United States Mint
The United States Mint primarily produces circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce. The Mint was created by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792, and placed within the Department of State...

 in 1794. Sometimes referred to as the fifty-cent piece, the only U.S. coin
United States coinage
United States coinage was first minted by the new republic in 1792. New coins have been produced every year since then and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today circulating coins exist in denominations: $0.01, $0.05, $0.10, $0.25, $0.50, and $1.00. Also minted...

 that has been minted more consistently is the cent
Cent (United States coin)
The United States one-cent coin, commonly known as a penny, is a unit of currency equaling one one-hundredth of a United States dollar. The cent's symbol is ¢. Its obverse has featured the profile of President Abraham Lincoln since 1909, the centennial of his birth. From 1959 to 2008, the reverse...



Half dollar coins saw heavy use, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. For many years they were commonly used in casino
In modern English, a casino is a facility which houses and accommodates certain types of gambling activities. Casinos are most commonly built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships or other tourist attractions...

s. Rolls of half dollars may still be kept on hand in cardroom
A cardroom or card room is a gaming establishment that exclusively offers card games for play by the public. The term poker room is generally synonymous, since the gambling games played in such establishments are typically, and sometimes exclusively, variations of poker such as Texas hold 'em.Such...

s for games requiring 50-cent antes
Betting (poker)
In the game of poker, the play largely centers on the act of betting, and as such, a protocol has been developed to speed up play, lessen confusion, and increase security while playing...

 or bring-in bets, for dealers to pay winning naturals in blackjack
Blackjack, also known as Twenty-one or Vingt-et-un , is the most widely played casino banking game in the world...

, or where the house collects a rake
Rake (poker)
Rake is the scaled commission fee taken by a cardroom operating a poker game. It is generally 5 to 10 percent of the pot in each poker hand, up to a predetermined maximum amount. There are also other non-percentage ways for a casino to take the rake. Some cardrooms will not take a percentage rake...

 in increments of 50 cents (usually in low-limit seven-card stud
Seven-card stud
Seven-card stud is a variant of stud poker. Until the recent increase in popularity of Texas hold 'em, seven-card stud was the most popular poker variant in home games across the United States, and in casinos in the eastern part of the country. Two to eight players is common, though eight may...

 and its variants). Some slot machine
Slot machine
A slot machine , informally fruit machine , the slots , poker machine or "pokies" or simply slot is a casino gambling machine with three or more reels which spin when a button is pushed...

s also took in, and paid out in, 50-cent pieces; however, casinos in recent years have phased in "coinless" slots for all denominations, taking in paper dollars, and paying winners through voucher
A voucher is a bond which is worth a certain monetary value and which may be spent only for specific reasons or on specific goods. Examples include housing, travel, and food vouchers...


By the early 1960s the rising price of silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 was nearing the point where the bullion value of United States silver coins would exceed face value. In 1965, the U.S. introduced layered composition coins made of a copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 core laminated between two cupro-nickel
Cupronickel or copper-nickel or "cupernickel" is an alloy of copper that contains nickel and strengthening elements, such as iron and manganese. Cupronickel is highly resistant to corrosion in seawater, because its electrode potential is adjusted to be neutral with regard to seawater...

 outer faces. The silver content of dimes and quarters was totally eliminated, but the Kennedy half dollar
Kennedy half dollar
Within hours of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, informing him that serious consideration was being given to depicting Kennedy on one of the larger silver coins: either the silver dollar, half dollar, or...

 composition still contained silver (reduced from 90 to 40 percent) from 1965 to 1970.

The 1964 Kennedy halves were massively saved out of circulation for sentimental reasons. Those issued through the end of the 1960s were hoarded as the only precious metal U.S. coins remaining in production, and as the price of silver continued to rise pre-1964 halves disappeared from circulation as well. By the time that the coin's composition was changed to match that of the clad dimes and quarters in 1971, both businesses and the public had adapted to a country in which the half dollar did not generally circulate. The quarter took over the half's role as the highest-value component of change.

Most coins enter circulation through the change drawers of businesses. Few businesses stock their change drawers with half-dollars, and many banks do not stock these coins or hand them out as normal business practice, so the coins do not see much circulation.

Most U.S. vending machine
Vending machine
A vending machine is a machine which dispenses items such as snacks, beverages, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, consumer products and even gold and gems to customers automatically, after the customer inserts currency or credit into the machine....

s do not accept half dollars, nor do payphone
A payphone or pay phone is a public telephone, often located in a phone booth or a privacy hood, with pre-payment by inserting money , a credit or debit card, or a telephone card....

s, which further curtails its circulation; however, American sleight of hand
Sleight of hand
Sleight of hand, also known as prestidigitation or legerdemain, is the set of techniques used by a magician to manipulate objects such as cards and coins secretly....

 magicians specializing in coin magic
Coin magic
Coin magic is a general term for magical performances employing one or more coins which are manipulated to deceive and baffle the audience. Because coins are small, much coin magic is considered close-up magic or table magic, as the audience must be close to the performer to see the effects...

 prefer the half dollar for its size and weight, and it is the most common denomination used for U.S. commemorative coins.

In recent years half dollars have been minted only for collectors, due to large Federal Reserve and government inventories on hand of pre-2001 pieces, this mostly due to lack of demand and large quantity returns from casino slot machines that now operate "coinless". If and when the reserve supply runs low, the mint will again fill orders for circulation half dollars. It took about 18 years (1981–1999) for the large inventory stockpile of a similar low demand circulation coin, the $1 coin, to reach reserve levels low enough to again produce circulation pieces. Modern-date half dollars can be purchased in proof sets, mint sets, rolls, and bags from the U.S. Mint, and existing inventory circulation pieces can be ordered through most US banks. All collector issues since 2001 have had much lower mintages than in previous years. Although intended only for collectors, these post-2001 half dollars sometimes find their way into circulation.


  • On December 1, 1794, the first half dollars (approximately 5,300 pieces) – were delivered. Another 18,000 were produced in January 1795 using dies of 1794, to save the expense of making new ones.

  • Due to the high production of half dollars from the 1790s, another 30,000 pieces were struck by the end of 1801. The coin had the Heraldic Eagle, based on the Great Seal of the United States
    Great Seal of the United States
    The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States federal government. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself , and more generally for the design impressed upon it...

     on the reverse.

  • One of the great mysteries of half dollars was the 150,000 that were minted in 1804 without one specimen
    A specimen is a portion/quantity of material for use in testing, examination, or study.BiologyA laboratory specimen is an individual animal, part of an animal, a plant, part of a plant, or a microorganism, used as a representative to study the properties of the whole population of that species or...

     known to exist. The coinage of 1804 was struck with dies from 1803, accounting for the confusion.

  • In 1838, half dollar dies were sent to a branch mint for the first time, when 20 were struck at the New Orleans Mint
    New Orleans Mint
    The New Orleans Mint operated in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a branch mint of the United States Mint from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909. During its years of operation, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination, with a total face value of over...

    . This 1838-O coin is the greatest rarity among US half dollars, with two separate specimens having sold for $632,500 in Heritage
    Heritage Auctions
    Heritage Auction Galleries is the world's largest collectibles auctioneer and the third largest auction house, with over $700 million in annual sales and 600,000 online bidder-members...

     auctions, in 2005 and 2008 respectively. The following year this mint produced nearly 180,000 half dollars.

  • In 1861, the New Orleans mint produced coins for three different governments. A total of 330,000 were struck under the United States government, 1,240,000 for the State of Louisiana after it seceded from the Union, and 962,633 after it joined the Confederacy. Since the same die was used for all strikings, the output looks identical. However the Confederate States of America
    Confederate States of America
    The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

     actually minted four half dollars with a CSA (rather than USA) reverse and the obverse die they used had a small die crack. Thus "regular" 1861-O halves with this crack probably were used by the Confederates for some of the mass striking.

  • There are two varieties of Kennedy halves in the proof
    Proof coinage
    Proof coinage means special early samples of a coin issue, historically made for checking the dies and for archival purposes, but nowadays often struck in greater numbers specially for coin collectors . Many countries now issue them....

     set issues of 1964. Initially, the die was used with accented hair, showing deeper lines than the president's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
    Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle...

    , liked. New dies were prepared to smooth out some of the details. It is estimated that about 1–3% (40,000–100,000) of the proof halves are of the earlier type, making them somewhat more expensive for collectors.


Silver half dollars
  • Flowing Hair 1794–1795
  • Draped Bust
    Draped bust
    "Draped Bust" was the name given to a design of United States coins. It appeared on much of the regular-issue copper and silver United States coinage from 1795-1808. The denominations that featured the Draped Bust design included the half cent.-Basic design:...

    • Draped Bust, Small Eagle 1796–1797
    • Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle 1801–1807
  • Capped Bust 1807–1839
    • Capped Bust (Large Size), With Motto 1807–1836
    • Capped Bust (Small Size), No Motto 1836–1839
  • Seated Liberty
    United States Seated Liberty coinage
    The Seated Liberty designs appeared on most regular-issue silver United States coinage during the mid- and late-nineteenth century, from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which featured the Seated Liberty design included the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and until 1873 the...

    • Seated Liberty, No Motto 1839–1866
    • Seated Liberty, With Motto 1866–1891
  • Barber
    United States Barber coinage
    Liberty Head designs appeared on United States minor silver coinage from 1892 to 1916. They derive their common name from their designer, Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber.-Origins:...

  • Walking Liberty
    Walking Liberty Half Dollar
    The Walking Liberty half dollar was a silver 50-cent piece or half dollar coin issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947; it was designed by Adolph A. Weinman....

  • Franklin
    Franklin half dollar
    The Franklin half dollar is a coin that was struck by the United States Mint from 1948 to 1963. The fifty-cent piece pictures Founding Father Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse. A small eagle was placed to the right of the bell to fulfill the legal requirement...

  • Kennedy
    Kennedy half dollar
    Within hours of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, informing him that serious consideration was being given to depicting Kennedy on one of the larger silver coins: either the silver dollar, half dollar, or...

     1964 (General circulation issue) (the last 90% silver half-dollar for circulation, contains 0.36169 oz. net silver per coin, or 7.234 oz. silver per roll)
  • Kennedy
    Kennedy half dollar
    Within hours of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, informing him that serious consideration was being given to depicting Kennedy on one of the larger silver coins: either the silver dollar, half dollar, or...

     1992–present (silver proof sets available)

40% silver half dollars
  • Kennedy 1965–1969
  • Kennedy 1970 (collectors sets only)
  • Kennedy 1976 (only collectors sets produced with 40% silver)

Copper-nickel clad half dollars
  • Kennedy 1971–1974, 1977–1986, 1988–2001 (general circulation issues)
  • Kennedy 1987, 2002–present (collectors only)
  • Kennedy Bicentennial
    United States bicentennial coinage
    The United States Bicentennial coinage was a set of circulating commemorative coins, consisting of a quarter, half dollar and dollar struck by the United States Mint in 1975 and 1976...

    1975–1976 (all dated 1776–1976.)
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.