Have you ever marveled at the humble half dollar coin? These coins, often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily commerce, bear stories of the past and hidden treasures of numismatic value. The half dollar, a cornerstone of U.S. coinage, has a rich history that mirrors the evolution of the country itself. From the early draped bust designs to the iconic Kennedy half dollars, each carries a fascinating narrative wrapped up in a pocket-sized piece of art. But do you know what makes some half dollars immensely valuable, reaching prices of over a million dollars at auctions? Today, we’re on a treasure hunt to discover the top 15 most valuable half dollars. The rarity, historical significance, and unexpected surprises of these coins might ignite a newfound appreciation for these pieces of metallic history.
Hold on tight as we embark on this thrilling journey – it’s time to reveal the clandestine allure and worth of the United States’ most valuable half dollars. If you’re eager to learn more about coin valuation, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on The Value of Coins. This resource will offer additional insight into what makes coins like these half dollars not just valuable, but pieces of history that stand the test of time. Discover the Most Valuable Coins in the world and let’s delve deeper into the world of coin collecting together.”
A Brief History of Half Dollars
Half dollars have been a cornerstone of U.S. currency since the inception of the U.S. Mint in the late 18th century. Each series of half dollars has its own rich history, rarity, and unique design, making them appealing to both collectors and history enthusiasts.
1. Flowing Hair Half Dollar (1794-1795)
The Flowing Hair half dollar, the first design of U.S. half dollars, is of immense historical importance. These coins showcase Lady Liberty with long, flowing hair, a design element that has persisted in various forms on U.S. coinage. Minted for only two years, these coins are a significant treasure in the numismatic world.
2. Draped Bust Half Dollar (1796-1807)
Draped Bust half dollars depict a more refined image of Lady Liberty. Notable for the variations in star count, these coins remain a fascination for collectors due to their design variations and historical significance, symbolizing the early growth of the United States.
3. Capped Bust Half Dollar (1807-1839)
This series, characterized by the “liberty cap” design, depicts a more mature and defined Liberty. The Capped Bust series is beloved for its elegance and the subtle variations in design across its mintage.
4. Liberty Seated Half Dollar (1839-1891)
The Liberty Seated half dollars feature a seated Lady Liberty holding a shield and a flag, reflecting the growing might of the U.S. These coins, spanning over half a century, capture an era of dramatic change in American history.
5. Barber Half Dollar (1892-1915)
The Barber series, named after its designer Charles E. Barber, showcases a more neoclassical depiction of Liberty. Collectors often seek out these coins for their distinctive design and the historical period they represent.
6. Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916-1947)
One of the most iconic U.S. coin designs, the Walking Liberty half dollar presents Lady Liberty striding confidently toward the sun. Struck during significant times like the World War years, these coins are a popular collector’s item.
7. Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963)
Honoring one of America’s most influential founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, these half dollars are unique as they do not depict Lady Liberty. They offer a glimpse into the period’s shift in cultural and design preferences.
8. Kennedy Half Dollar (1964-Present)
The current series of U.S. half dollars, minted in memory of President John F. Kennedy, remains a staple of American coinage. The coin’s enduring design stands as a tribute to Kennedy’s legacy and continues to be minted to this day.
The Most Valuable Half Dollars
When it comes to half dollar coins, certain key dates and mint marks can make all the difference. Let’s take a closer look at these esteemed coins.
15. 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Special Mint Set (SMS)
Introduced in memory of President John F. Kennedy shortly after his assassination, the Kennedy Half Dollar series holds an important place in American numismatic history. The Special Mint Set (SMS) from 1964 is a rarity, minted in 90% silver with a limited production run. Because of its special characteristics, the 1964 SMS Kennedy Half Dollar can fetch high premiums at auction. A well-preserved specimen was sold at a Heritage Auction for a whopping $47,000 in 2016, showcasing its potential value in the collector’s market. Check our guide about the most valuable Kennedy Half Dollars
14. 1872-CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar
The Carson City mint, operational between 1870 and 1893, is known for its low mintage numbers. This Nevada-based mint imbued its coins with a touch of the Wild West, increasing their historical allure. The 1872-CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar is a coveted coin from this mint. Its low mintage of approximately 63,200 coins, combined with its survival rate, makes it one of the scarcer Liberty Seated Half Dollars. The exact worth can fluctuate significantly based on its condition, with a recent auction sale reaching $186,000 for a well-preserved specimen.
13. 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar
The 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar, struck at the San Francisco Mint, is a key date in the Walking Liberty series. Its mintage of just 548,000 coins makes it one of the rarest and most sought-after coins in the series. It features the iconic design by Adolph A. Weinman, encapsulating the spirit of freedom and progress. A high-grade 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar could command a price of over $200,000; a stunning example fetched a staggering $329,000 at a 2015 auction.
12. 1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
With a limited mintage of 1,165,000 coins, the 1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar from the Denver mint is another key date in the series. Walking Liberty Half Dollars, particularly from the early 20th century, are celebrated for their artful design and scarcity. A 1919-D in good condition can easily command over $270,250, with the record auction price set at a remarkable $423,000 in 2014 for an extremely well-preserved specimen.
11. 1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar
The 1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar, minted in San Francisco, carries a significant historical value. It has a mintage of 4,162,000 coins, making it a relatively common coin in the series. However, high-grade specimens are rare and coveted by collectors. This particular coin is a reminder of the Gold Rush era and the Western expansion of the US. With the right condition and provenance, this coin could fetch a high price, with one example selling for a staggering $352,500 at an auction in 2005.
10. 1870-CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar
The 1870-CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar holds a special place among numismatists due to its origin – the renowned Carson City mint. With a total mintage of just 54,617 coins, it’s one of the rarest and most sought-after CC-minted coins. Historical significance, rarity, and the CC mint mark contribute to its high value, with an estimated worth surpassing $172,500. An outstanding example, boasting high detail and lustrous surfaces, was sold at auction for an impressive $188,000 in 2009.
9. 1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar – Overdate
Errors can lead to the most intriguing coins, and the 1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar is no exception. An overdate error led to an ‘1817’ date struck over a clearly visible ‘1814,’ a fascinating occurrence that piques collectors’ interest. The overdate and its limited survival rate contribute to a high estimated value of over $356,500. A well-preserved example of this rare piece was auctioned for a significant $381,875 in 2018.
8. 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollar
The inaugural issue of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar series, the 1916 edition, boasts Adolph A. Weinman’s timeless design. Coins from this year, especially those in top condition, are highly prized. Owing to its status as the first of its kind, the 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollar can fetch up to $100,000 or more. A high-grade specimen fetched $152,750 at a 2010 auction, demonstrating its potential value.
7. 1916-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
The Denver-minted version of the 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollar is another cherished piece among collectors. Bearing the ‘D’ mintmark, this key date coin in top condition can reach values of up to $125,000. At an auction in 2014, a nearly perfect 1916-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar was sold for an impressive $149,500.
6. 1916-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar
The 1916-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar, minted in San Francisco, stands as a treasured rarity in the Walking Liberty series. With values often surpassing $150,000, this coin’s high demand is attributed to its age, mintmark, and well-preserved examples’ scarcity. One such example sold for an impressive $195,500 in a 2008 auction, underlining the coin’s considerable value potential.
5. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar – 15 Stars
The 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar featuring 15 stars is a key piece of early U.S. history. With a very limited mintage, this coin represents one of the first half dollars ever produced by the United States Mint. The coin’s design reflects the 15 states of the Union at the time, contributing to its historical significance. As one of the rarer half dollars, its estimated value is over $373,750. At an auction in 2013, a well-preserved specimen sold for an impressive $705,000.
4. 1838-O Proof Capped Bust Half Dollar
Regarded as one of the great rarities in American numismatics, the 1838-O Proof Capped Bust Half Dollar holds a place of distinction in any collection. Reportedly, only 20 of these coins were minted, making it incredibly scarce. This coin’s rarity, combined with its exceptional condition and proof striking, contribute to its high value of $763,750. An example was sold at an auction in 2013 for a significant $763,750.
3. 1942-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
The 1942-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar stands as a significant coin, having been minted during World War II. From the Denver Mint, this key coin is a treasured piece due to its historical significance and rarity in high grades. Its estimated value is approximately $100,000, but a particularly high-grade specimen was sold at an auction in 2016 for a substantial $192,000.
2. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar – 16 Stars
The 16-star variation of the 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar is a unique issue in early U.S. coinage. These coins were minted after Tennessee’s admission to the Union as the 16th state, reflected in the 16 stars on the coin. Owing to its rarity and historical significance, its value is up to $822,500. An example of this coin was sold at an auction in 2014 for a noteworthy $1,527,500.
1. 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar
The pinnacle of half dollar coinage, the 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar is one of the first coins minted by the newly formed U.S. Mint. As such, it holds substantial historical and numismatic significance. Its scarcity, age, and historical significance contribute to a staggering estimated value of over $1,527,500. In 2015, an auction saw one of these coins sell for a remarkable $1,527,500, confirming its standing as the most valuable half dollar.
Which half dollar is worth money?
All half dollars have a certain value, whether it’s their face value of 50 cents or something far greater. However, the most valuable half dollars tend to be older ones or those with errors, mintmarks, or other unique characteristics. The condition of the coin also heavily influences its value.
What’s the most expensive half dollar worth?
As of the date of this article, the most expensive half dollar sold at auction is the 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar, which fetched an astonishing $1,527,500.
What is a 1776 to 1976 half dollar worth?
The 1776-1976 half dollar is a Bicentennial coin. While it’s a memorable piece of history, millions were minted, meaning its value usually remains around face value for circulated coins. However, special collectors’ editions or uncirculated coins in excellent condition may fetch more from a collector.
Which Kennedy half dollars are worth the most?
The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar, the first of its kind and minted in 90% silver, tends to be the most valuable, especially the Special Mint Set (SMS). But remember, condition and rarity are significant factors, so rare error coins or pristine condition Kennedy half dollars can also fetch a high price.