What makes a 1973 half-dollar rare? The 1973 half-dollar holds intrigue for coin collectors and history buffs alike. With only a few rare varieties, a 1973 half-dollar in average condition is not necessarily valuable on its own. However, a few standout coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints command strong premiums, especially in high grade.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The 1973-S and 1973-S Proof half-dollars are by far the rarest and most valuable 1973 half-dollar varieties.
Low Overall Mintage for the Series
The 1973-S half-dollar has one of the lowest mintages in the modern half-dollar series. Only about 2 million half dollars were produced at the San Francisco mint in 1973.
This low overall mintage is due to the declining popularity of half-dollar coins in circulation at the time. After the early 1960s, half dollars were not used as extensively in everyday commerce. Vending machines and parking meters rarely accepted them.
So the demand for new half-dollars declined sharply by the early 1970s.
The 1973 mint sets sold very well despite the low mintages of the circulation strikes. Collectors were eager to acquire brilliant uncirculated examples of the Ike dollars and half dollars. But relatively few 1973 halves likely entered circulation, making them less obtainable for the average person.
So the limited number of 1973 half-dollars produced contributes to their collectability and rarity status today. Finding a 1973 half-in pocket change is like discovering hidden treasure. Even well-worn examples with heavy abrasions can fetch above-average prices due to the low original mintage.
Mintages by Location
The Philadelphia mint produced around 60 million half-dollars, while Denver produced around 80 million of halves. Both figures are tiny by the standards of earlier years in the series.
The 1973-D half dollars are more plentiful than the Philadelphia issues. But both have relatively low populations in well-preserved conditions. Finding a lustrous, mark-free example is a challenge even for knowledgeable collectors.
As you can see, the condition plays a key role in making the 1973 half-dollar a scarce and desirable piece.
The 1973-S Half Dollar
The 1973-S half dollar is a coin that is sought after by many collectors due to its rarity and low mintage. Only 2.8 million 1973-S half dollars were minted, making it the lowest mintage business strike half a dollar between 1962 and 2002.
There are a few key factors that contribute to the 1973-S half dollar’s popularity and value among collectors:
As mentioned, only 2.8 million 1973-S half dollars were produced at the San Francisco Mint. This is a tiny fraction of the mintages for other half dollars around the same period. For example, the Philadelphia Mint produced over 60 million half dollars in 1973.
The scarcity of the 1973-S is what makes it so valuable to collectors.
Final Year of Circulation Strikes
The 1973-S half dollar was the last business strike half dollar intended for circulation. Beginning in 1974, the half dollar switched to being produced solely for collectors in proof and silver proof sets. So the ’73-S holds an important place in U.S. coin history.
Strong Collector Demand
There is tremendous demand for the 1973-S among half-dollar collectors seeking to complete a full set. It is considered the “key date” for the series between 1962 to 2002. According to the 2023 Red Book price guide, an MS65 graded example sells for around $350, showing how popular and valuable the coin is.
In lower Mint State grades, the 1973-S is worth $25 and up. Even well-worn circulated examples trade for a few dollars or more, compared to common 1970s half dollars that sell for face value. So any 1973-S half is desirable to collectors.
While all 1973-S half dollars are scarce compared to other issues, there are also a few specific varieties that are extraordinarily rare and valuable. These include:
- Doubled Die Obverse (only a few known): $30,000+ in Mint State
- No S Mintmark (only 2 confirmed): $20,000+
So in examining your 1973-S half dollar, be sure to check for any signs of doubled or missing mintmarks, as these make the coin super rare!
The 1973-S Proof
The 1973-S proof half-dollar is one of the more intriguing coins in the modern proof series. Struck at the San Francisco Mint with a mintage capped at 2,760,000 pieces, it has some unique characteristics that make certain examples valuable to collectors.
Low Mintage for the Series
With its relatively low mintage compared to other proof halves of the early 1970s, the 1973-S is seen as something of a semi-key date. The 1971 proof had a mintage of 3,220,733 coins, while the 1972 came in at 3,145,821 pieces. When placed alongside those totals, the ’73-S looks scarce by comparison.
Yet despite having the lowest mintage in the first half of the decade, the 1973-S proof is still readily available and affordable in grades through PR69 Deep Cameo. It’s only in superb gems with ultra-deep mirror contrasts that it becomes challenging to locate.
Special Edge Lettering
The 1973-S proof half is well-known for having two different styles of edge lettering. Coins early in the production run feature the standard reeding with incuse edge lettering reading “E PLURIBUS UNUM”. Later examples exhibit reeding over a copper-nickel-clad layer and lack any edge lettering.
Both varieties are equally common. While the standard edge-lettered pieces tend to command modest premiums in high grade, neither is truly rare. The most valuable 1973-S proof halves are those graded PR70 DCAM, regardless of edge style.
|Standard Lettered Edge
|Incuse edge lettering reading “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
|Unlettered Clad Layer Edge
|Reeded edge over copper-nickel clad layer, no edge lettering
Typical Survival Rates
Despite the lower original mintage compared to other early 1970s-proof halves, the 1973-S has similar survival rates in upper mint state grades. Around 5,000-7,500 pieces exist at the PR68 level, while 1,250-1,800 coins grade PR69.
In virtually perfect PR70 condition, the 1973-S is only marginally more challenging to find than issues like the 1971 and 1972. PCGS and NGC have certified approximately 90-110 pieces at this top level. So while scarce and valuable in superb gem, it can’t be considered a major condition rarity.
Other Notable 1973 Varieties
The 1973-D Half Dollar
The 1973-D half dollar is one of the more fascinating varieties from that year. Produced at the Denver Mint, some coins exhibit unusual doubling effects like a doubled die that is much scarcer compared to the Philadelphia doubled die variety.
This doubled die exhibits strong extra thickness on the word LIBERTY and date, making it popular for collectors.
Around 4.1 million of the 1973-D halves have this doubling, per the authoritative Cherrypicker’s Guide. An unworn specimen could sell for $75-100, over 15 times the typical value.
Not bad for a relatively modern half-dollar!
Doubled Die Obverse Varieties
Doubled die 1973 half dollars also exist for the Philadelphia and Denver mints. Coins with this type of doubling exhibit strong doubling of design elements like the words LIBERTY and date. Let’s compare their rarity and value:
|Rarity in Circulation
|1973-P Doubled Die Obverse
|Rarest of all doubled dies: 1 in 825,000
|1973-D Doubled Die Obverse
|More Available – 1 in 200,000
As the table shows, the 1973 Philadelphia doubled die is incredibly rare and fetches huge premiums over face value in mint condition. The 1973-D is much more affordable for collectors on a budget.
These doubled die varieties resulted from misaligned die hubs when minting the coins. The doubled elements give the coins very unique appearances much different from a regular 1973 half.
So in your half-dollar search, make sure to examine those 1973-P and 1973-D coins closely! You could stumble upon a jackpot piece.
How to Tell if You Have a Valuable 1973 Half Dollar
Determining if your 1973 half-dollar is rare and valuable takes some detective work. Here are the key things to look for:
Check the Mint Mark
- Turn the coin over and look below the wreath on the back. If there is no mint mark, it was made at the Philadelphia Mint.
- A “D” mint mark means it was made at the Denver Mint. This is more common.
- An “S” mint mark indicates it came from the San Francisco mint. This is rather rare, especially if it has no wear.
Examine Condition and Details
The condition of a 1973 half-dollar plays a big role in its value. Things to inspect:
- Wear – A worn coin is less desirable while a pristine one can fetch a premium.
- Luster – Does it still have its original mint shine and luster?
- Marks/Scratches – Surface nicks, spots, or scratches hurt eye appeal.
- Strike – A weak strike shows less detail.
Also, check for doubled die errors. This happens when the coin design is rubbed twice off-center during minting, creating a doubling in letters, numbers, or design elements. These types of errors make the coin much more valuable to collectors.
Authenticate the Coin
To confirm that a 1973 half dollar is real and judge its grade, have it professionally appraised by a reputable coin dealer or third-party grading service like PCGS or NGC. Counterfeits and alterations can fool amateurs.
What Makes A 1973 Half-Dollar Rare – Conclusion
While most 1973 half dollars are only worth their face value, a few standout varieties carry substantial premiums, especially in higher grades. Key dates like the 1973-S and 1973-S proof command the highest prices due to tiny mintages under 3 million each.
With sharp details, attractive toning, and a bit of luck, your 1973 half-dollar could be far more valuable than the 50 cents it was intended to represent.