What is the diameter of a half dollar? If you’ve ever held a half-dollar coin in your hand, you may have wondered just how wide that shiny disc is. Half dollars tend to get overlooked compared to their smaller cousins, the quarter and dime, yet they have an intriguing history and their large size lends them a stately air.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The diameter of a half-dollar coin is 1.205 inches or 30.61 millimeters.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various aspects of the half-dollar including its current specifications, how those have changed over time, notable half-dollar designs, and more. You’ll come away with a rich understanding of this underappreciated coin.

Current Half-Dollar Dimensions


The current design of the half-dollar coin has maintained the same diameter since its last redesign in 1971. As per the specifications from the United States Mint, the half-dollar has a diameter of 1.205 inches (30.61 mm).

This places it as the largest coin currently in general circulation, with a width greater than a quarter or dime.

The sizable diameter has been a defining characteristic of the half dollar since its initial minting. When first released in 1794, the half-dollar’s diameter was set at 1.34 inches. It was reduced slightly in 1834 to 1.295 inches but otherwise has seen little change over the years.

The stability in size gives the half-dollar a consistent, substantial feel and makes it easy to recognize by touch alone.


In tandem with the diameter, the half-dollar’s thickness has also remained largely consistent over time. Per the United States Mint’s specifications, the current half-dollar coin has a thickness of 0.085 inches (2.15 mm).

As with the diameter, this thickness saw only minor tweaks since the initial 1794 version, which was 0.09 inches thick. The 1834 redesign trimmed it down to 0.077 inches before a slight increase to the current 0.085 inches in the early 1900s.

This thickness ensures sufficient durability for circulation while maintaining an overall slim profile given the coin’s larger diameter.


The specifications from the U.S. Mint list the overall weight of the current half-dollar coin as 11.34 grams. This gives it a substantial heft, weighing over three times that of a dime.

Earlier versions matched this weight more closely, with the first 1794 half-dollar weighing 13.48 grams. Incremental reductions led to the current weight by the early 1900s. The consistency since then ensures vending machines and coin counters can reliably process the half dollar based on its mass.

Together, the diameter, thickness, and weight give the half-dollar a distinct look and feel. Over decades of small tweaks and reductions, it has arrived at dimensions that balance utility, durability, and recognition.

The specifications result in a coin that stands out in the hand or pocket due to its notable size and heft compared to other circulating coins.

How Half Dollar Specifications Have Changed Over Time

Early Half Dollar Designs (1794-1839)

The first half-dollar coins were minted in 1794 and designed by Robert Scot. These early half dollars, known as Flowing Hair and Draped Bust half dollars, ranged in diameter from 32.5mm to 34.5mm (over 1.25 inches across).

The silver content also fluctuated, starting at 1.34 ounces of silver and capped at 1.36 ounces in later versions.

Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)

The next major redesign came in 1839 with the introduction of the Seated Liberty half-dollars. These coins, featuring a seated Lady Liberty on the obverse, had a reduced silver content of just 0.77 ounces. However, the diameter increased to 30 mm (1.15 inches).

Seated Liberty half-dollars also had a reeded edge instead of lettered or plain edges.

Barber Half Dollars (1892-1915)

After the Seated Liberty design came to Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head Half Dollar in 1892. The specifications remained the same in this series with a 1.15-inch diameter and 0.77 ounces of silver. One distinction was the switch to a micrometric rim bordering the raised flat fields.

Walking Liberty Half Dollars (1916-1947)

Perhaps the most iconic half-dollar design belongs to the last silver series – the Walking Liberty half-dollar by Adolph A. Weinman. These coins retain the 30 mm diameter and 0.77 ounces of silver established in the previous series.

True to its name, the obverse depicts a full-length figure of Liberty walking toward the sunrise with arm outstretched. The US national motto “In God We Trust” also debuted on the obverse during this series in 1866.

Noteworthy Half-Dollar Designs

Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963)

The Benjamin Franklin half dollar was minted from 1948 to 1963 to honor one of America’s founding fathers. The obverse featured a bust of Franklin facing left, making it stand out from other coin designs. Over 465 million Franklin half dollars were produced during its 16 years of minting.

Kennedy Half Dollar (1964-Present)

The Kennedy half dollar replaced the Franklin half in 1964 as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963. The obverse depicts Kennedy facing left with the inscriptions “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Over 5.6 billion Kennedy halves have been struck since 1964, making it perhaps the most widely collected half-dollar series.

Bicentennial Half Dollar (1975-1976)

A special half-dollar was minted in 1975 and 1976 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of American independence. The iconic design featured a drummer on the reverse and the dual dates “1776-1976” on the obverse.

Only about 168 million bicentennial halves were minted, adding to their popularity among collectors and historians today.

The half-dollar coin has showcased several important designs over the years highlighting key figures and events in American history. Current Kennedy half dollars with the profile portrait remain in circulation today as an everyday reminder of President Kennedy’s enduring legacy.

Collecting and Using Half Dollars Today

Tips for Collecting Half Dollars

Half dollars make a fun and rewarding collection for numismatists and coin enthusiasts. Here are some tips for starting or expanding your half-dollar collection:

  • Look for rare dates and mints – Key dates like the 1970-D and 1976-S half dollars can be worth a considerable premium over face value.
  • Choose a type or series to focus on – Collect by era (Barber, Walking Liberty), design type (Kennedy), or even just one specific year.
  • Check coin rolls and circulation – Pre-1970 halves can still be found in circulation today if you search carefully.
  • Set a budget – Common half dollars in well-circulated condition can be very affordable to collect.

When buying for your collection, reputable coin dealers and third-party grading services like PCGS can authenticate and assess the quality of rare half-dollar coins.

Spending Half Dollars

While most commerce has shifted to smaller denominations, half-dollar coins can still be spent at face value in cash transactions today:

  • Some coin-operated machines like laundry appliances and transit ticket kiosks accept half-dollar coins.
  • Half dollars can be used to pay cash at retailers or for personal transactions, though you may need to gently persuade the cashier.
  • Banks allow you to deposit half dollar into your account or exchange them for smaller denominations.
Half dollars minted: Over 1.1 billion
Half dollars in current circulation: Around 158 million

The most recent half-dollar for circulation was minted in 2001. While not commonly seen in transactions today, half dollars remain legal tender that can be freely used at face value. Coin collectors may pay far above 50 cents for rare dates in uncirculated condition.

FAQs About Half Dollars

What is a half dollar made of?

The current half-dollar coin produced by the U.S. Mint is made of a copper core sandwiched between two outer layers of 75% copper and 25% nickel. This three-layered composition is durable and provides an attractive silvery shine.

Earlier half-dollars had different compositions. For example, half dollars minted from 1965-1970 were made of 80% silver and 20% copper. During World War II, some half dollars were made of an alloy of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese as a way to conserve nickel and copper for the war effort.

What is a half dollar worth?

The face value of a half-dollar coin is 50 cents. However, the collectible value can vary greatly depending on the age, condition, mintage, and composition of the coin. Here is a comparison of half-dollar values:

Year Condition Value
1964 and earlier 90% silver half dollars Heavily worn $8 – $10
1970-D Kennedy half dollar

(low mintage)

Uncirculated condition Over $200
Recent (2000s onward) base metal half dollars Circulated condition $1 – $5 for uncommon dates/mints

As you can see, collector value varies tremendously based on age, mintage, condition, and precious metal content. Checking a coin catalog or getting an appraisal from a reputable coin dealer is the best way to determine the value of a specific half-dollar coin.

Why did they stop making half-dollar coins?

The last half dollar intended for regular circulation was minted in 2001. There are a few key reasons why the U.S. Mint scaled back and eventually halted the production of half-dollar coins for circulation:

  • Lack of public demand – Very few half-dollar coins were actually used in commerce or everyday transactions later in the 20th century.
  • Confusion with quarters – The similar size/weight made some people accidentally mistake half dollars for quarters, which was a headache for cashiers.
  • Cost efficiency – Mints can produce five times as many quarter dollars from the same amount of metal.

However, special commemorative half-dollar coins have still been intermittently minted in very small quantities for collectors and special occasions, such as the 2023 Kennedy half-dollar. But when it comes to half dollars for regular everyday circulation and commerce, that ship has sailed.

The factors above made the 50-cent coin impractical for modern everyday cash transactions. Although they are still legal tender, half dollars these days are mostly collected for their silver content or numismatic value rather than their face value.

What Is The Diameter Of A Half Dollar – Conclusion

With their broad diameter, engraving-covered faces, and silvery shine, half-dollar coins have an unmistakable presence. As we’ve explored, the dimensions of Half Dollars have undergone minor changes since their introduction in 1794, even as their designs have passed through several artistic eras.

Half dollars may not circulate as frequently as smaller coins, but they occupy an intriguing niche for collectors and casual admirers alike.

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