Half Dollars : Barber Half Dollar

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Obverse of 1899 Half Dollar Reverse of 1899 Half Dollar

Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): In 1892 the half dollar was redesigned to the so-called Barber type. Designer Charles E. Barber’s Miss Liberty now faces right, her hair is in a Phrygian cap, and a wreath of laurel encircles her head. The word LIBERTY appears on a small band or ribbon above her forehead. IN GOD WE TRUST is above, six stars are to the left, seven stars are to the right, and the date is below. The reverse is an adaptation of the Great Seal of the United States and features a heraldic eagle grasping an olive branch and arrows and holding in its beak a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. A galaxy of stars is above. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR surround. The same head of Miss Liberty appears on dimes and quarters of the era.

Mintage was continuous at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints from 1892 through 1915, with additional pieces supplied from New Orleans through 1909 and from Denver beginning in 1906. Unlike the Barber Quarter series, which has some genuinely tough coins, there are no significant rarities in the Barber Half series, although the 1892-O, 1892-S, 1893-S, 1897-O. 1897-S, 1914 and 1915 will be tougher to locate.

The type set collector will encounter no difficulty in acquiring specimens in grades of Good or Very Good. Fine pieces, believe it or not, are scarce. Very Fine coins are very scarce and Extremely Fine coins can be called rare in the context of modern issues. AU coins are rarer yet, Uncirculated pieces are still more rare, and superb Uncirculated pieces are very rare. Proofs exist in proportion to their original mintages, which like the quarters, typically ran in the neighborhood of 500 to 900 pieces per year.

One of the reason for the scarcity of high grade circulated pieces, is once the coins entered circulation, they tended to remain there many years, and the few XFs and AUs that remained, were often “enhanced” in the 1960s and 1970s and sold as Uncs.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers