Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): In 1836, steam-powered presses were introduced to the Philadelphia Mint, and one of the first innovations was a new half dollar format. Christian Gobrecht modified John Reich’s Capped Bust style resulting in a coin of smaller diameter, with a reeded edge. The obverse continued the older design of Miss Liberty facing left, wearing a cloth cap with a band inscribed LIBERTY, with tresses falling to her shoulder, and with her bosom draped in a gown secured by a brooch. Six stars are to the left and seven to the right. The date is below. The reverse depicts an eagle perched on a branch and holding three arrows with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above and the denomination expressed as 50 CENTS below. E PLURIBUS UNUM no longer appeared on a scroll above the eagle.
Just 1,200 pieces of 1836 reeded edge half dollars were struck, and are rare in all grades today. The following year, some 3.6 million pieces were made, making them relatively plentiful today in all grades from Good through Extremely Fine. AU coins are a bit scarcer, and Uncirculated pieces are scarce. As with most early 19th century coins of any type, Superb Uncirculated coins are rare.
-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers