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Are Half Dollars Valuable? It Depends on the Year...

Antique American silver Kennedy half dollars.
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In general, a silver dime that has a face value of ten cents will contain about a fifth as much silver as a silver half dollar that has a face value of fifty cents, and a silver quarter with a face value of twenty-five cents will contain about a quarter as much silver as a silver dollar with a face value of one hundred cents.

The half dollar coin value has recently been gradually trending upward. Any half dollar coin that was minted before 1965 is 90% silver, so that is a good basis to use when you are assessing the worth of your coin.

Fifty cent half dollar US coin

The first batch of half dollars was produced on the 1st of December, 1794.

What Exactly is a Half Dollar?

In the system of U.S. coinage, the actual term “half dollar” can be used to refer to half a unit of the full dollar amount. Since one dollar can be divided into 100 cents, a half dollar is the equivalent of 50 cents. Coins of that amount can be denominated as such at a value of 50 cents. 

Although not widely used in current circulation, the half dollar can still in fact be used as legal tender and it can sometimes also be a lot more valuable than the face value you see on the coin. For example, the Kennedy half dollar is often considered to be a valuable form of this coin.

There is evidence of a 1964 Kennedy half dollar being worth a world-record price of $108,000, making it the most expensive coin of its type. This amount was raised during a public auction of rare U.S. coins held during April, 2019, by Heritage Auctions.

The Surprising Extra Value of Some Half Dollars

With the incredible way that the silver price keeps increasing these days, some of the small change you have, including half dollar coins, might actually be more valuable than you think. Many of the half dollar coins you’ll find in circulation today have some type of silver content, especially the rare coins that were produced by the United States Mint in the years before 1965.

These types of older series coins are in high demand because of their popularity with coin collectors. If you are looking to take up the hobby of coin collecting, a simple step-by-step method can often be used to easily identify the most important varieties, dates, and condition of the coin in question.

  1. Recognize the Different Series of Half Dollars: Beginning with Bust Half Dollars, there is a wide variety of designs that have represented the half dollar denomination over the years. You’ll first need to identify the different series of coins.
  2. Look for Date and Mintmark Variety: Dates and mintmarks (symbols that represent different mints) can each be identified and valued separately. Many original mintages of early half dollar coins are low, which creates a condition of rarity
  3. Assess the Grading Condition: The condition of half dollars is one of the key factors when it comes to coin collectors and their level of interest. It is vital to assess the grading condition of your coin by doing a close inspection. 
  4. Identify Special Qualities: With such a large variety of coins, many special qualities are considered when assessing value. Determine your half dollar value by identifying the series. Examine your half dollar coin carefully to see if it has any qualities that differ from regular coins. 

Step 1: Recognize the Different Series of Half Dollars 

Bust Half Dollar Value Bust Half Dollars

These early halves are very popular coins, although most of them today tend to be heavily worn due to their age and level of circulation. Coins with older dates can sometimes be worth hundreds of dollars if they are in the type of condition that coin collectors expect.

Seated Liberty Half Dollar Value 

The Seated Liberty Half Dollar has high minimum values and there are numerous rare dates on these coins. It is a very good idea to check your coins against a current price guide to see if they might be considered rare in comparison to other coins. You can also take your coins to dealers to see what they might offer you for these.

Discover the Value of Old Half Dollars

Many of today’s coin collectors are discovering the Barber half dollar. The high level of demand is driving the prices of these coins higher. In "Fine" condition, these can be highly sought-after collectibles.

Walking Liberty Half Dollar Value 

The Walking Liberty half dollar is also a real favorite among coin collectors. The right coin being sold at auction can sometimes surge into hundreds of dollars. You’ll find that this series is covered in great detail by plenty of grading images and coin value charts that are available on the web. 

Franklin Half Dollar Value

The current silver price (or spot price) can form the base value of the Franklin half dollar. All of these are heavy silver coins that are often worth at least $10 each. They are mostly collected in Mint State condition, and there are few rare dates that you can look for.

Step 2: Look for Date and Mintmark Variety

Many coin collectors pay a lot of attention to the dates of half dollars that are either common, scarce, or rare. Overall, original mintages usually indicate a scarce date. Early Bust half dollars are a good example of a coin that was produced in few numbers. Each specific date is valued according to the availability of the coin. 

The earliest half dollars were minted at Philadelphia because it was the only mint at the time. From 1794 until 1837, all half dollars were made in Philadelphia. The New Orleans Mint began striking half dollars for circulation in 1839.

This added production and increased the numbers per year and it also created a separate collectible variety of uncirculated U.S. coins. By 1855, the San Francisco mint added coinage, followed by the mint in Carson City in 1870, and the mint in Denver in 1906. Each separate branch was sure to use a specific mintmark on its coinage to identify each coin.

As part of the design on the reverse side as opposed to the obverse, the letter “S” represents the San Francisco mintmark (sometimes referred to as “s silver”). The letters “CC” are for Carson City and the letter “D” is the mintmark that represents Denver. Generally, a mint marked half was one of the scarcest coins of the year. The process of collecting by year and mintmark combination is a vital part of building a complete set of half dollars. 

Step 3: Assess the Grading Condition

The condition of your coin is the next important factor when you are trying to determine half dollar value. Levels of condition have a range depending on the amount of wear. A coin with no wear to the surface appears just as it did when it left the mint.

Heavy wear that results from the amount of time in circulation places a coin at the low end of the condition scale. Each stage of wear is noted by a "grade". Among collectors and dealers these grades are specifically used to define stages of wear.

  • Mint State: If no wear or tear at all can be detected on the surface of a half dollar, a grade of Mint State is awarded. The Mint State designation defines the coin as it remains on the original surfaces of the metal without removing any of the fine texture of luster that appeared at the time of minting.
  • Extremely Fine Grade: The highest points of the designs on these coins are the first places to show signs of wear. Each series is unique when it comes to detecting the amount of wear on the coin. Overall, an Extremely Fine grade coin has light wear on the highest areas and does not create large smooth spots. 
  • Fine Grade: Defining the Fine grade is visible wear covering the entire coin. Loss of fine details plus large flat areas lowers the condition into the Fine grade range. The Barber half dollar still displays major details. For example, the leaves of the wreath and the headband are distinctly visible on the coin. 
  • Good Grade: The flatness of the entire design can be seen in an outline form. Some minor details may be missing and major elements remain visible, but they appear smooth. A Bust half in Good grade displays the figure of Liberty completely, with some of the details along the rim beginning to fade. A strong rim and date is important when grading a coin at this level.

Step 4: Identify Special Qualities

Quality refers to the overall condition of the coin. This has always been a very important factor to coin collectors and in the world of numismatics in general. Within each series, collector preference in quality shows through in terms of bullion quality and higher valued collector quality. 

The bullion half dollar value is tied to silver because it moves up and down with its price. Collector quality half dollars have much more stable values, with little to no movement in price, regardless of the value of silver. Sometimes the level of quality shifts within a series between a bullion quality half dollar and one where the quality is considered to be collectible.

Collector Grade Half Dollars: Barber, Walking Liberty, and Franklin Half Dollars 

Barber halves in Fine condition are highly sought after by many coin collectors because all of them are valued above their silver bullion worth. In states of Fine grade or higher, the Barber halves maintain stable values that continue to trend upwards. 

Walking Liberty halves are similar, but coins from before 1934 are collectible in Extremely Fine grade. Many of those coins in lesser condition simply move in value with the price of silver. Later date Walking Liberty halves, the ones that were minted after 1934, are mostly valued by collectors in the Mint State grade.

The set of Walking Liberty halves is a series in which all examples in Extremely Fine condition are fast becoming collector quality. All Mint State silver half dollars are collectible quality. Circulated, high-grade half dollars are very popular with new and young collectors. They are large, made of silver, quite affordable, and well worth holding onto for many years.

The set of Franklin Halves is another series where the vast majority of coins, in all grades, are greatly affected by movements in silver price. The separation of a circulated coin from a Mint State coin is the most important distinction when it comes to the Franklin half series.

Mint State coins are all collectible quality and silver forms their solid underlying base. This does, however, often cause movements in their value. As these series get older, what is considered bullion quality can quickly change.

Macro photo of a The Eisenhower dollar coin is on a one-dollar bill.

Ike dollars constitute a relatively short series with many unusual varieties to collect.

What Are Some Other Types of Silver Coins?

If you live in the United States, you can sometimes find a few foreign silver coins in daily circulation. Before 1920, the 92.5% pure (.925 fine) sterling silver standard was used for all British coins. The most common other foreign coins are the 80% silver coins from Canada. Canadian 80% silver coins, including quarters, half dollars, and dollars, were generally minted between the years 1920 and 1967.

There are plenty of commemorative coins and proof sets that were originally issued by the US Mint. Limited quantities of these coins will sometimes contain 90% silver. Always remember whenever you decide to buy or swap any of your silver coins that all dimes, quarters, and half dollars from the United States mint by the year 1964 or earlier were made of 90% silver.

Some other coins like the Eisenhower half dollar are also made of 40% silver. These coins can have very specific dates and the value of the coins is often determined by the dates that they were minted. It is quite easy to find certain products like this at special coin shows and at some types of coin dealers, and they can indeed be very valuable collector’s items.

Some people find the dual date 1776-1976 Bicentennial Ikes and think they are rare coins, but unfortunately, this is not often the case. As with most other coins, you also have to look into the varieties and condition grades if you want to find the higher values, so most Eisenhower Dollars are generally only going to be worth $1.

If you happen to find them in a mint or proof set, then they might be worth a few more, but not a whole lot higher than their face value. One of the most valuable Eisenhower dollars is considered the 1972 Type 2 coin. This one is quite easy to identify if you examine the image of the moon on the reverse side of the coin.

As a budding numismatist, you might want to study these popular Eisenhower dollar varieties and errors so you can add them to your growing collection.

Considering Silver Coins for Investment Purposes

The precious metal called silver is quite possibly one of the best investments on the market. It can be quickly exchanged for other goods of practical value and it is easily portable. If you happen to have any silver coins, it might be a good idea to keep them as long as you possibly can.

The coin price might be a good hedge against inflation or a rapidly devaluing currency. Along with platinum and gold coins, silver is one of the most valuable precious metals there is. It is a good idea to keep a small box in your house where you can throw all of your silver coins as soon as you discover them. The coin price might hold a great deal of value for you one day!

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All articles are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of GSI Exchange and should not be construed as financial advice.

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