Did you notice how rarely you can see a half-dollar coin in today’s circulation? That’s pretty odd, since for a long period of time, the 50c coin was in extensive use. This is the main reason why today we have so many different designs of the same coin.
Over time, this coin gained a collectible status, and now you’ll most likely see a vast of them selling on auctions. That raises the question what are the most valuable half dollars? In this article, we will explore a wide variety of collectible half-dollar coins in search of the most valuable ones.
Why Are Half Dollars Valuable Collectibles?
This is a rather simple thing to answer. First thing first, the half dollar is a very old and historically significant type of coin. The first one was minted in 1794, that is almost 230 years ago! Imagine how many different and important events happened during that time.
These coins witnessed both World Wars as well as Great Depression, which makes them attractive collectibles to many different collectors worldwide. Also, each design honors a person that is of great value to the American people so that contributes to the value as well.
Finally, most coins were made from silver! That means they have a value even if they are in a not-so-good condition. Those that remain in great condition sell for thousands or even millions of dollars. Do you need any more reason to start looking for them?
Price Guide For Most Valuable Half-Dollar Coins Worth Collecting
Did you know that over time the US Mint produced 8 different types of half-dollar coins? That isn’t surprising at all since back in the day people earned salaries of just a few dollars so the half-dollar coins were the leading denomination in that economy.
Nowadays, a half dollar is not as useful as it was, in fact, you’ll rarely see it or receive it in change. However, this is a story with a happy ending. A half-dollar got a new purpose and now it serves as a valuable collectible item.
Not all half-dollar coins are collectible, of course, only the chosen ones. This is why we are here, to help you learn which 50-cent coins are worth the effort (and money). Carefully read the following list.
The Flowing Hair half-dollar was the first half-dollar coin produced. It was released in December 1794. On the obverse side, the coin features a portrait of an unknown woman with long curly hair, while the reverse side is reserved for the Heraldic Eagle.
The word “Liberty” is placed on the upper rim of the obverse side beside the two arcs of stars. On the bottom rim, you can find the minting year. On the reverse side around the eagle a “United States of America” is engraved, and below the eagle, two olive branches appear.
This coin was used on a daily basis. It was made in 1794 and 1795 from 89% silver and 11% copper and was pretty large featuring 32.5mm in diameter and 13.48 grams. We don’t know the exact mintage volume since records show only 323,144 coins. Both minting years are valuable collectibles.
1. 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar
- Grade: MS64+ PCGS
- Price: $1,800,000
The coin was minted in Philadelphia, thus carrying no mint mark. The mintage volume of 23,464 coins makes it very scarce. In fact, this is one of the rarest and most sought-after half-dollar coins.
This particular 1794 50c coin was sold for an amazing $1.8 million! However, there are a few of these coins available on the market for lower prices. The price is determined by the condition and grade and this one is in pretty great shape.
2. 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar – Two Leaves
- Grade: MS65+ PCGS
- Price: $552,000
1795 was the second and the last minting year for the Flowing Hair half-dollar coin. At that time coins were made mainly by hand, which means they were cut manually so that process in result gave us several die varieties. The mintage volume was around 299,680, yet we don’t know how many coins each die variety contains.
A coin that most collectors want to own is this two-leaves 1975 Flowing Hair 50c coin. You’ll notice that it has two leaves on the wreath just beneath the eagle’s wings, while other coin varieties have three leaves. What also makes this coin so valuable is the fact it is the only example in Mint State.
Draped Bust Half-Dollar (1796-1797)/(1801-1807)
For some reason the Flowing Hair coin, to be a more precise design, was not well received among the general public. Therefore, the Mint started producing a new design in 1796 which was called Draped Bust. This type of coin was minted in two runs in 1796 and 1797, and a second run from 1801 until 1807.
There were minor changes on the obverse side. It also featured a portrait of an unknown woman with long curly hair. The difference is that this image has a bit sharper definition. A word “Liberty” is still written above the Lady’s head followed by a wreath of stars. On the bottom, a minting year is placed.
In the first run, the reverse side kept the Heraldic Eagle design from the Flowing Hair coin. Luckily, in the second run, they redone the obverse design as well. Those coins feature a replication of the Great Seal of the United States.
Here we can see an eagle spreading his wings, while he clutches a handful of arrows in his talons. Behind a shield, a banner reading “E Pluribus Unum” is engraved.
The coins were minted from 89% silver and 11% copper and were 32.5 mm in diameter and 13.48 grams. We do not know the exact mintage of these series but there are for sure above 2 million of these coins made.
Keep an eye for these Draped Bust half-dollar key dates – 1796 small eagle, 1802 heraldic eagle, and 1806 knob 6.
1. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar – 16 Stars
- Grade: MS66 PCGS
- Price: $1,800,000
During the minting process in 1796, the US Mint realized they had too many states to continue symbolizing each one as a star on the obverse side. The 1796 50c coin with 16 Star half dollar represents a historically valuable coin which is what makes it so special!
There were only 3,918 coins that year, and we don’t know exactly how many coins feature 15 or 16 stars. This particular specimen is in mint condition and it features multicolored toning which further enhances the value.
2. 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar
- Grade: MS65+ PCGS
- Price: $1,560,000
Fewer than 4,000 1979 50c coins were ever minted. Logically, these coins are hard to find, especially in good condition, hence the high prices. It is believed that there are 324 of these coins of which only 5 are in mint condition!
One of those five is this example. What makes this specimen so valuable is the excellent condition, paired with a slight weakness in the curls of Lady’s hair. Also, details on the reverse side are sharp and distinct. This coin has an outstanding mint luster with a blue and champagne-gold toning.
- Grade: SP63 PCGS
- Price: $587,500
Here is yet another 1796 50c coin, yet this one comes with 15 stars compared to the previous one which has 16. It is believed that mint workers made this coin for coin collectors, knowing that at that time the US had 16 states, this might be true.
Besides this, what makes this coin an extraordinary collectible is its extremely well-preserved condition. This is the only example of this 15-star design that has been recognized by PCGS as a specially struck piece.
4. 1801 Draped Bust Half Dollar
- Grade: MS64 PCGS
- Price: $420,000
As we previously mentioned in 1801 the US Mint redesigned the reverse side of the coin and replaced the heraldic eagle with a replica of the US Great Seal. It is normal that during mint transitions a few different combinations of dies appear.
This specimen is in mint condition and it features a rare satin luster in different colors on each side. There are only 2 coins in this condition which justifies the high price.
The Capped Bust half-dollar was minted just after the Draped Bust. As you can see from the headline this type of half-dollar was minted in three different varieties:
- Type 1 (1807-1836) – with a lettered edge, “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
- Type 2 (1836-1837) – reeded edge, “50 CENTS” can be seen on the reverse
- Type 3 (1838-1839) – reeded edge, “HALF DOL” can be seen on the reverse
On two previous half-dollar designs obverse side featured a portrait of a woman positioned to face right. However, on Capped Bust Lady Liberty faced left. Also, the biggest change is that now she wears a headband with the word “LIBERTY” engraved on it. The minting year is still in the same place, below the portrait.
Moreover, the reverse side was redesigned as well. While it features the same US Great Seal design, on this coin the image is a bit more angled. Now we come to the part where we discuss three different varieties.
Type 1 features a band with the written “E PLURIBUS UNUM” above the eagle’s head. The other two varieties lack this feature. Type 2 has “50 CENTS” engraved on the lower rim just below the eagle. While Type 3, comes with the “HALF DOL” engraved below the eagle.
Only Type 1 coins were made with 89% silver and 11% copper content and weighed 13.48 grams with a diameter of 32.5mm. The Type 2 and Type 3 were made from a 90% silver and 10% copper combination. Their size was reduced as well, so they are 30mm in diameter and 13.36 grams.
Keep an eye for these Capped Bust half-dollar key dates – 1807 bearded goddess, 1812/1 large 8, 1815/2, 1817/4, 1830 large letters, and 1838-O.
1. 1838-O Proof Capped Bust Half Dollar
- Grade: PR64BM PCGS
- Price: $734,375
It is believed that this example is the oldest proof coin produced in a mint facility that wasn’t the Philadelphia mint facility. Like with most old coins we do not know the exact number of how many proof coins like this were produced.
However, some experts firmly believe the New Orleans mint “O” minted less than twenty coins. Also, there are some theories that these coins were actually minted in Philadelphia but engraved with the mint mark “O” as a prototype proof die. Anyhow, no matter which rumor is true the fact is that this coin is ultra rare, thus valuable.
This specimen features a few minor flaws on the surface and a multicolored toning.
2. 1839-O Proof Capped Bust Half Dollar
- Grade: PR65 NGC
- Price: $299,000
Here is another example of a Proof coin produced at the New Orleans Mint. The fun fact is that all proof coins were minted in the Philadelphia mint facility, except the 1838 and 1839 coins which were made in New Orleans.
Less than thirty of these coins exist! Besides that, this particular specimen is one of the only three finest known examples of the 1839-O 50c proof coins.
Proof coins were specifically made for coin collectors. However, since coin collecting became popular in the US in the late 1800s very few coins from this time can be found in a great shape as this one. As you can notice, this coin is in almost immaculate condition, and at the same time, it shows even the smallest details. This is a high-quality specimen that justifies the price.
3. 1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar Overton-102. Rarity-7. VF-35
- Grade: VF35 PCGS
- Value: $282,000
During the 1800s coin dies were manually made, which made the process slow, labor-intensive, and prone to errors and flaws. Especially since mint reused coin dies from previous years to save on material.
This was done by grinding off the part where the date was engraved and re-punching a new date. In this particular example, you can notice that there is a number “4” underneath the last digit of the date. An error like this is very rare and valuable. Only eight of these rare die varieties exist and this one is the finest specimen out of all.
4. 1827 Proof Capped Bust Half Dollar
- Grade: PR67 PCGS
- Price: $258,500
In 1827 the Philadelphia Mint produced only eight 1827 half-dollar coins. The main reason for such low numbers is the fact they were produced only if collectors requested them. Even though proof coins are always in perfect condition, some specimens from the 1800s are not in the best condition.
Many coins experienced damage from the environment and mishandling since back in the day collectors did not have protective casings for coins. If you find a specimen from the 1800s in a pristine condition like this one you scored a jackpot.
Seated Liberty Half-Dollar (1839-1891)
In 1839 the US Mint replaced the Capped Bust design with the Seated Liberty design. The main difference between the obverse side design was that Lady Liberty is now pictured in a sitting pose while holding a flag, and shield with engraved “LIBERTY”. She is also surrounded by a wreath of 13 stars.
The reverse was similar to the Capped Bust design with a few slight variations. This is the main reason why we have five different varieties of this type of coin:
- Type 1 (1839-1853) – no motto on the reverse side, also on some coins from 1839 you can find the lack of drapery behind liberties left hand on the obverse side
- Type 2 (1853) – visible addition of a small arrowhead at each side of the date on the obverse side, as well as rays above the eagle on the reverse side
- Type 3 (1865-1866) – no motto on the reverse side above the eagle’s head, while on the obverse side, arrows are added at each side of the date
- Type 4 (1866-1873) – above the eagle’s head on the reverse side the motto appears on a scroll or ribbon
- Type 5 (1873-1874) – arrows are placed on each side of the date on the obverse side, while on the reverse side, we can see a motto written above the eagle’s head
The motto that frequently appears on the coin’s reverse side is “IN GOD WE TRUST”. Also, what makes these coins different from the previous ones is that from 1853 each half-dollar coin featured 30.6mm in diameter and 12.5 grams in weight. All coins are minted on planchets made from 90% silver and 10% copper combination.
Keep an eye out for these Seated Liberty half-dollar key dates – 1870 CC, 1874 CC, 1879, and 1890.
1. 1853-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar – No Arrows
- Grade: VF35 PCGS
- Price: $517,000
While the basic obverse and reverse major design elements remain the same, some minor changes in designs can be noted in each variety. In 1853, half-dollar coins that were minted in New Orleans were designed to have arrows on each side of the date as well as sun rays above the eagle on the reverse side.
This coin has an error considering he lacks both features. There are only four examples of this rare error, which is why this coin was sold for over half a million dollars.
2. 1855-S Liberty Seated Proof Half Dollar Arrows
- Grade: PR65 NGC
- Price: $276,000
In 1854 and 1855 Seated Liberty 50c coins were designed with arrows on each side of the date and no motto above the eagle’s head on the reverse side. Besides that only three proof coins are known to exist, this coin is special for a rare error. If you take a better look you’ll notice that on the obverse side, Lady Liberty does not have drapery behind her left (your right) arm.
One prof coin like this is in the Smithsonian Institution, the second one was not seen on the market from the 1950s, while this third one was sold in 2011.
3. 1839 Proof Liberty Seated Half Dollar – No Drapery
- Grade: PR65 NGC
- Price: $241,500
The first Liberty Seated Half Dollar was minted in 1839. In most cases, all coins feature a design that shows Lady Liberty with an additional piece of drapery falling behind her left arm. However, some 1839-proof coins do not feature this additional piece of drapery on the coin.
The reason is probably a minting error, and it is believed six proof coins like this were produced in 1839. This is an extremely rare specimen and that dictates a high price like this one.
4. 1853 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Arrows and Rays
- Grade: PR65 PCGS
- Price: $228,000
In 1853 a Seated Liberty half-dollar coin was made with arrows on each side of the date and sun rays around the eagle on the reverse side. A few million coins with this design were released into circulation, yet only a few proof coins exist.
It is believed that there are only five to eight proof specimens made, which indicates that they are extremely rare issues. You’ll recognize them easily by their razor-sharp designed elements.
Barber Half-Dollar (1892-1915)
The Barber Half Dollar was first time produced in 1892 to replace the long-running Seated Liberty design. It was produced every year until 1915 in Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, while only a few dates were produced in Denver and New Orleans.
After more than five decades of Seated Liberty, the US Mint decided it was time for a change. The change is most obvious on the obverse side. A newly designed obverse side features a portrait of Lady Liberty facing right. She also wears a Phrygian cap, and a laurel wreath with a band with inscribed “LIBERTY”.
Above her head, the inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” appears while the minting date is below. Thirteen stars complete this design arranged as a wreath with six to the left and seven to the right side.
As usual, the reverse design is based on the Great Seal of the United States, with an eagle hat holding a shield, a bundle of arrows in his talons, wings spread, and olive branches beneath. There are two changes in the design. The first one is that the eagle holds a ribbon inscribed with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in his beak, second one is thirteen stars that are placed over his head.
All Barber coins were made from 90% silver and 10% copper, with a diameter of 30.6mm and a weight of 12.5 grams. Keep an eye out for these Barber half-dollar key dates – 1892 O, 1895 S, 1913, 1914, and 1915.
1. 1904-S Barber Half Dollar
- Grade: MS67 PCGS
- Price: $138,000
The find of a 1904-S half-dollar coin in a Mint State is extremely rare. There were only 553,038 coins minted. All of these coins were made for circulation, and just a few of these coins survived in good condition. However, there are only two examples in a mint state like this coin.
Also like almost all S-mint coins from the early 1900s, you can see a few faint tint roller lines on the obverse. What makes this coin so valuable is its lustrous appearance paired with frosty silver surfaces and delicate golden-brown, light green, and lilac toning.
2. 1892-O Barber Half Dollar Very Rare Branch Mint Proof Striking First-Year Issue
- Grade: SP66 NGC
- Price: $108,687
What makes this coin valuable is the fact that in the New Orleans Mint only 1895-O and 1898-O half dollars were minted as proof coins! This example was minted with great care. It features a highly mirrored finish, and a nearly perfect strike that shows weakness only at the junction of the right shield edge and the wing.
The coin has a brilliant mirror-like shine and all the details on the obverse and reverse side are perfectly sharp.
Walking Liberty Half-Dollar (1916-1917)/(1917-1947)
This coin features one of the most popular and iconic designs in the history of American numismatics. The coin was first minted in 1916 and until 1947, but why is this important? Well, since it existed for a wide range of years these included historical events like World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. Coins from these periods are very valuable collectible items!
The idea behind the bold and confident design of Liberty on the obverse side was to enhance the strength and determination of all US citizens through those tumultuous times. On the obverse side, you’ll notice a full figure of Liberty wearing a long gown while walking. Across her shoulders, an American flag is draped and billowing around her.
The right hand is outstretched, while in her left hand, she holds a bouquet of olive branches. On the lower left side of the coin, a sun rises with a few emitting rays. The inscription “LIBERTY” is engraved close to the upper rim of the coin, while “IN GOD WE TRUST” is placed on her right. As usual, the minting date is at the bottom.
The reverse design was changed as well. It features an eagle standing on a rock with his wings raised in a defiant stance. A branch is springing from the rock, which symbolizes America and her straight to fight through even the toughest grounds. The inscription “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is engraved just above the branch.
There are two different types of this coin. The first two minting years featured a mint mark on the obverse side, while all the rest minting years carried a mint mark on the reverse side. Coins were minted from 90% silver and 10% copper, with a diameter of 30.6mm, and a weight of 12.5 grams.
Keep an eye out for these Walking Liberty half-dollar key dates – 1916 S, 1921, 1921 S, 1921 D, and 1938 D.
1. 1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
- Grade: MS66 PCGS
- Price: $270,250
The 1919 half-dollar coins from the Denver Mint are by no means rare. This specimen is extremely well-struck with only a few minor imperfections. These can be seen as a group of tiny milling marks in the right field adjacent to the folds in Liberty’s cape, and several ticks on the eagle’s lower legs.
The surface on both sides is smooth and satiny, so this is the finest known example of 1919-D Walking Liberty half dollar. Coin’s luster is intense and uninterrupted throughout. If you take all this into consideration it is no surprise why this coin was sold for over a quarter million dollars.
2. 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar
- Grade: MS66 NGC
- Price: $188,000
This is one of the greatest rarities in the Walking Liberty series due to the fact it has the lowest absolute population in Mint State. Since this coin was in heavy use during the Great Depression only a few examples are saved in a mint condition.
This particular example of the 1921-S half dollar is known as the third premium gem-graded coin! It features a luminous, frosty surface, with immense visual appeal and high surface quality. There are minor characteristic weaknesses on Liberty’s head, branch hand, and eagle’s leg. However, these do not affect eye appeal significantly.
Franklin Half-Dollar (1948-1963)
The most drastic redesign of the half-dollar coin occurred in 1948. At the time of production, this design was criticized by many. Probably because people loved the old design, and compared to classic Liberty it was rather simple. However, this coin gained popularity among collectors throughout the years.
The new half-dollar coins featured a portrait of founding father Benjamin Franklin facing right on the obverse side. A classic slogan “IN GOD WE TRUST” is engraved close to the bottom, while the minting date is placed near Franklin’s neck. No US coin is designed without the word “LIBERTY” which is placed above his head.
The reverse side was completely redesigned, and there was no more eagle, well at least not like we got used to. A first thing you’ll notice is an image of a large Liberty Bell. On the left side of the bell, you’ll notice writing “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, while on the right side, a small image of an eagle appears.
Coins are struck on planchet made from 90% silver and 10% copper. The diameter is regular 30.6mm, and the weight is 12.5 grams. Keep an eye out for these Franklin half-dollar key dates – 1948, 1949 S, 1953, and 1955.
1. 1951 Franklin Half Dollar Deep Cameo
- Grade: PR67+ Deep Cameo PCGS
- Price: $82,250
This minting year is usually found with very low contrast, so the Deep Cameo examples like this one are considered very scarce. If you flip the coin you’ll see that on each side it’s pristine with seemingly depthless mirrors and a thick layer of frost.
There are some minor die-polish lines on Franklin’s head, however, these are typically found on the best-contrasted examples.
2. 1953 Franklin Half Dollar Ultra Cameo
- Grade: PR68 NGC
- Price: $63,250
This specimen is the only PR68 Ultra Cameo coin grade from the 1950-1953 period. Logically, that’s the fact that significantly enhanced the value of the coin.
The coin is in perfect condition, without a single mark, flaw, or minor imperfection. Like all ultra cameo coins, it features snow-white central devices with a beautifully contrasted background of jet-black reflective fields.
Kennedy Half-Dollar (1964-Present)
After the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1963, the Government decided to mint a coin in honor of the late president.
The obverse design is simple and it features an image of Kennedy facing left, with the word “LIBERTY” engraved above and to the sides. Like on most half-dollar coins the minting date is placed below. Just above the date, you can find the slogan “IN GOD WE TRUST” organized in one straight line.
The reverse side is an adaptation of the Great Seal of the United States. It somehow reminds us of the Heraldic Eagle style used on the early 19th-century gold and silver coins. However, the reverse side, as well as the minting material, were changed through the years so we have five different types of Kennedy 50c coin:
- Type 1 (1964) – made with 90% silver and 10% copper
- Type 2 (1965-1970) – made with 40% silver and 60% copper
- Type 3 (1971-present) – made from nickel-copper clad composition
- Type 4 (1976) – Bicentennial design available in both clad and silver composition
- Type 5 (2014) – 50th Anniversary edition available in clad, silver, and gold composition
Keep an eye out for these Kennedy half-dollar key dates – 1964, 1965,1970-D, 1987-P, 1987-D, and 1998-S.
1. 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Silver
- Grade: SP87 PCGS
- Price: $156,000
What makes the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar valuable, besides the fact it’s the first minting year is the fact it’s the last regular issue of the half-dollar made from 90% silver.
The 1964 SMS Kennedy half dollar is struck from a single pair of dies, with much sharper details than the regular issue. Also, you can notice luminous satin surfaces with near-flawless preservation.
The obverse design displays a dusting of lilac-gray toning, while the reverse is brilliant. This specimen is one of only about a dozen pieces known with a grade as high as this, it is also known as King of Kennedy Half Dollar coins.
2. 1968-S Kennedy Half Dollar Proof Deep Cameo
- Grade: PR70 DCAM PCGS
- Price: $24,000
This series was the first one that had a proof half-dollar coin struck since 1964. Also, the 1968-S is the first US-proof coin produced at the San Francisco Mint. There are only a few coins that feature both the Deep Cameo finish and expertly preserved surfaces required to get a grade PR70 DCAM.
Where Can You Trade Valuable Half-Dollar Coins?
Trading valuable coins seems easy when you first think of it. However, this action comes with great risk. Valuable coins are among the most replicated collectibles, especially ones like Flowing Gair half-dollars, or Barber half-dollars. These are coins that are worth millions.
This is why you as a collector need to establish a network of reliable coin dealers that you’ll work with. Here is our list of auction houses and coin web pages that are proven and reliable – Heritage Auctions, PCGS, Coins For Sale, Stack’s Bowers, or Littleton Coin Company.
Naturally, you can also visit web platforms like eBay, Etsy, LiveAuctioneers, and Craigslist. However, these sources should be taken more as informational sources. If you consider buying coins here, make sure your seller is proven and with high feedback grades.
Are half-dollar coins a good investment?
Older half dollars are a very worthy investment in both good and bad condition. Those that were made prior to 1965 were minted from 90% silver so they can always be sold for a melt value if damaged.
On the other hand, silver half-dollars in good condition can bring you up to a six-figure jackpot!
How can you tell if your silver half-dollar is real?
There is an easy way to detect if your coins are fake. Simply check to see if it’s magnetic. Remember, precious metals like silver, gold, platinum, and palladium aren’t magnetic! If your coin attracts a magnet then you can be sure it’s fake.
Great Baragian For A Low Face Value
Do you have some old half-dollar coins in your pocket change? Or maybe in your piggy bank? If you do, then you are probably wondering if can you sell them for more than they are worth. Well, maybe you could, all you have to do is spend some time reading this comprehensive guideline and you’ll learn more than enough to realize if your coin is worth something or nothing.
You’ll be glad to know that in today’s circulation, you can still find many half dollars that are worth much more than 50 cents! For instance, there are still many rare and valuable Kennedy half-dollars circling so why don’t you give it a try?