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20 Most Valuable Half Dollars That Are Worth Money

Did you know that the most valuable half dollars have been sold for over $1.7 million at auctions? The most priced half dollars are the 1794 Flowing Hair and the 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollars (16 Stars Variety) both sold in 2023 for a whopping $1,800,000 each.

They are followed closely in value by these heavily priced half-dollars:

  1. 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar: Small Eagle (15 Stars Variety) – $1,680,000
  2. 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar – $763,750
  3. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (15 Stars Variety) – $587,500
  4. 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar: Two Leaves – $551,000
  5. 1853-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar: No arrows – $517,000

Here, a list of the highest auctioned half-dollars is laid out to give you an overview of the most valuable half-dollars in U.S. history. Read on to know what makes these 50-cent coins worth a lot of money.

What 50 Cent Pieces Are Worth Money

Valuable Half Dollar

Half dollars are no longer used in everyday commerce today. The US Mint since 2002 only makes them as collectible items sold directly to collectors. This makes them easily accessible. However, other aspects increase the value of the half dollar.

Here are the main factors to consider when looking for half-dollars worth a lot of money:

1. Early Days – Age

The half-dollars minted throughout US history include:

  • Flowing Hair Half Dollar (1794–1795)
  • Draped Bust Half Dollar (1796–1807)
  • Capped Bust Half Dollar (1807–1839)
  • Liberty Seated Half Dollar (1839–1891)
  • Barber Half Dollar (1892–1915)
  • Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916–1947)
  • Franklin Half Dollar (1948–1963)
  • Kennedy Half Dollar (1964 to Date)

Of all of this, the earliest releases (Flowing Hair, Draped, and Capped Bust) are the most coveted among collectors making them generally the most valuable due to their historical significance and old age.

2. Composition

The first type of half dollars was struck in 90% silver and 10% copper. This changed in 1971 when the US Mint opted for clad copper-nickel half-dollars made of 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel.

These coins are not only valuable for their silver content but also because they are a relic of a time long gone. Their value increases if they contain any mint errors, are in high-grade condition, and come from key dates.

3. Mint Errors and Varieties

Varieties include intentional or prevalent changes made during mintage that created different versions of the same coin. Valuable half-dollar varieties include the 1797 half-dollar with 15 stars instead of 16 and the 1797 with both 15 and 16 stars on the reverse.

Mint errors are coinage mishaps that differentiate a few coins from the main version. Half-dollar errors worth money include the ‘Y Over Star’ error in 1795 coins and the Die Pair of 1878-S half dollars.

4. Grading and Condition

The rarest half dollars are those rated with the highest grades in their category. Each coin type can be found in varying high-grade conditions depending on how long they have been in circulation. The highest grade in that year fetches the highest prices at auctions.

5. Low Mintage

The earliest half dollars were often struck in small numbers, hence scarce in the current world. The lower the number of half dollars struck the more valuable the coin becomes if that year.

The low mintage coins’ value also increases if they contain intriguing designs, rare errors, unique varieties, and important key dates in U.S. coinage history.

6. Combination of the Above Factors

The more of these factors a half dollar has the more valuable it becomes. An example is the 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar: ‘Y Over Star’ Variety – it is an early days coin, with an intriguing variety, and low mintage, worth more than $250,000 in MS64 grade or higher.

Top 20 Most Valuable Half Dollars

Below are the most valuable half-dollars curated from the highest auction prices realized for half-dollars throughout history:

Dime Grade Highest Auction Price Realized Year Current Valuation
1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar MS64 $1,800,000 2023 $1,000,000
1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (16 Stars Variety) MS64 $1,800,000 2023 $530,000
1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar: Small Eagle (15 Stars Variety) MS66 $1,680,000 2021 $1,820,000
1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar PR64BM $763,750 2014 $850,000
1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (15 Stars Variety) SP63 $587,500 2015 $425,000
1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar: Two Leaves MS65+ $551,000 2021 $540,000
1853-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar: No arrows VF35 $517,000 2017 $400,000
1801 Early Half Dollar: O-102 MS64 $420,000 2023 $430,000
1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar O-102a AU50 $356,500 2009 $425,000
1839-O Capped Bust Half Dollar: ‘Half Dol.” PR65 $299,000 2012 $255,000
1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar: WB-1 MS66 $288,000 2020 $300,000
1855-S Seated Half Dollar: Arrows PR65 $276,000 2011 $210,000
1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar MS66 $270,250 2004 $315,000
1827 Capped Bust Half Dollar: Square Base 2 PR67 $258,500 2016 $200,000
1839 Seated Half Dollar: No Drapery PR65 $241,500 2009 $255,000
1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar: Y Over Star MS64 $234,000 2023 $260,000
1807 Early Half Dollar MS65 $223,250 2013 $91,500
1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar PR65+ $211,500 2015 $43,000
1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar: Die Pair MS64 $199,750

 

2014 $230,000
1803 O-104: Small 3 MS64 $195,500 2008 $165,000

1. 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar – $1,800,000

1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar

This is an Early Half dollar, highly valued for being the first half dollar in US history. Only 3 coins are known to exist at MS64 or higher.

The 1794 coins had a low mintage since the US Mint only had a few equipment and planchets.

Its rarity makes it a highly sought-after piece, wanted for its representation of a pivotal moment in American coinage history. The design features a flowing depiction of Liberty with delicate strands of hair, a short-lived design that was only produced between 1794 and 1795.

Highest auction records:

2. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (16 Stars Variety) – $1,800,000

1796 16 Stars Draped Bust Half Dollar

The mint made two varieties of the 1796 half dollar, one with 16 stars on the reverse and another with 15 stars. The 16 Stars variety is scarcer than the latter with only 5 of these coins known to exist today.

MS66 is the highest known grade today, worth $1 million according to the NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) Price Guide.

The reason for the variation is that the 16 Star Variety was separately created to commemorate Tennessee’s June 1, 1796 admission into the Union as the 16th State.

Highest auction records:

3. 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar: Small Eagle (15 Stars Variety) – $1,680,000

1797 15 Stars Draped Bust Half Dollar

With only 4 of these coins known to exist at MS66 or higher, the 1797 half dollar stands as another scarce variety in the Draped Bust series, characterized by a smaller eagle reverse and 15 stars. The interplay of design elements and restricted mintage make it a prized possession among collectors.

Highest auction records:

4. 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar: Reeded Edge “Half Dol” – $763,750

1838-O Reeded Edge 'Half Dol' Half Dollar

Proof coins usually aren’t valuable since they are made and sold directly to collectors, hence easily accessible. However, Proof coins from the early days are rare, and few are rarer than this 1838 Half Dollar (Proof) labeled ‘HALF DOL.’ on the reverse instead of ‘HALF DOLLAR’.

In 1838, the mint restyled the reverse changing the denomination inscription from 50 CENTS to HALF DOL. However, this only lasted till 1839 when it was changed to HALF DOLLAR.

Researchers have only traced nine examples and it is believed these were the earliest proof coins to be made by the U.S. Mint. About 20 were struck in 1838 making it even rarer to find these coins in any grade.

The 1838-O half dollars was made in New Orleans (bearing the ‘O’ mint mark). The branch operated from 1838-1861 and 1879-1909, making any coin with the O mint mark over 100 years old and limited in number.

Highest auction records:

5. 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (15 Stars Variety) – $587,500

1796 15 Stars Draped Bust Half Dollar

This is the second variety of the 1796 half dollar. It features a 15 Star design on the reverse and is less valuable than the 16 Star Variety due to its higher mintage number.

About 3,918 pieces were made but less than 200 are known to exist today.

Highest auction records:

6. 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar- $552,000

1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar

1795 half dollars are of much interest to early half dollar collectors due to their historical significance, unique vintage mintage processes, and limited number.

These coins are rarely seen above VF grade level, making any Mint State (MS) coin worth more than $45,000. 

Highest auction records:

7. 1853-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar: No arrows – $517,000

1853-O No Arrows Liberty Seated Half Dollar

Two varieties of half dollars were struck at New Orleans in 1853: Arrows & Rays variety and No Arrows. Only four No Arrows varieties exist today compared to more than 1,000,000 of the former variety.

Arrows & Ray variety features a small arrowhead to each side of the date and rays above the eagle on the reverse. The arrows are absent in this valuable variety.

Highest auction records:

8. 1801 Draped Bust Half Dollar: $420,000

1801 Draped Bust Half Dollar

Less than 30,500 of these coins were minted. It is also the first half dollar that was struck after the mint took a three-year break between 1798 and 1800.

The new Draped Bust obverse and heraldic eagle reverse were first seen in this coin, making it a revolutionary coin, the first of its kind.

Highest auction records:

9. 1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar O-102a – $356,500

1817/4 Capped Bust Half Dollar O-102a

An error happened in 1817 that resulted in the 1817/1 half dollars. These coins feature an ‘Overdate’ error where a 1 was struck on top of 7 in the date inscription.

This unique error has made the coin the most famous and most valuable Capped Bust Half Dollar.

Only 10 examples are known today, with the finest example graded at AU53 – worth $600,000.

Highest auction records:

10. 1839-O Capped Bust Half Dollar – $299,000

1839-O Capped Bust Half Dollar

Like its 1838 counterpart, this Specimen coin also features HALF DOL inscription on the reverse side. It was part of a special strike made in New Orleans with an unknown mintage number.

Any coin of this type above MS60 is worth $100,000 or more.

Highest auction records:

11. 1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar: WB-1 – $288,000

1878 S Liberty Seated Half Dollar. WB-1

Only 12,000 of these coins were minted in San Francisco. This is also the last year in which the Liberty Seated style was used in the half dollar, making this coin a highly coveted piece with historical significance and rarity.

Highest auction records:

12. 1855-S (Proof) Seated Half Dollar: Arrows – $276,000

1855 S Arrows (Proof) Liberty Seated Half Dollar

Proofs were the first half dollars minted in San Francisco. This happened in 1855 and only two are estimated to exist today. They mark the beginning of Proof coinage in San Francisco and their limited mintage plus pristine PR65 condition makes them highly valuable.

Highest auction records:

13. 1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar – $270,250

1919 D Walking Liberty Half Dollar

Minted in the aftermath of World War I and during the onset of the Prohibition era, this coin encapsulates a pivotal period in American history, marked by significant economic and societal changes.

Also, among 20th-century Half Dollars, the 1919 issues are notably rare, and the Denver mint produced a mere 1.1 million coins, making the 1919-D exceptionally scarce.

This is the most valuable 20th century half dollar, worth more than $6,200 in Mint State (MS60) and more than $315,000 in MS66 or higher.

Highest auction records:

14. 1827 Capped Bust Half Dollar: Square Base 2 – $258,500

1827 Square Base 2 Capped Bust Half Dollar

The are three varieties of the 1827 half dollar: 1827/6 Date, Curl Base 2 Date, and Square Base 2. The Square Base 2 date features an obverse date design where the 2 has a Square Base numbering

Only 8 examples are known to exist above PR65; these are the most valuable coins since lower grades are available in plenty.

Highest auction records:

15. 1839 Liberty Seated Half Dollar: No Drapery – $241,500 

1839 No Drapery Liberty Seated Half Dollar

Two kinds of half dollars were struck in 1839: Capped Bust and Liberty Seated Half Dollars. The 1839 Liberty Seated half dollar was also made into two varieties: one with drapery and another without.

The first iteration of the coin had No Drapery but later in the year, the design was changed to include the Drapery, leading to more coins with Drapery than none.

There are less than four known Proof coins with the No Drapery design.

Highest auction records:

16. 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dollar: Y Over Star – $234,000

1795 (Y Over Star) Flowing Hair Half Dollar

This coin is an early-day half-dollar, valued for its representation of early U.S. coinage. It also contains a unique die variety that adds to its value.

The ‘Y over Star’ variety half dollars in 1795 were struck with dies that left three-star points near the Y in LIBERTY.

Highest auction records:

17. 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar: O-109 – $223,250

1807 O-109 Draped Bust Half Dollar

This particular coin is unique for being a specimen strike, something that was unique to the date and incredibly scarce.

The highest known grade is MS66, worth $200,000 as per NGC Price Guide.

Highest auction records:

18. 1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar – $211,500

1822 Capped Bust Half Dollar

Only five Proof coins were made in 1822 for the half dollar denomination. This coin is among the rarest of all Proof coins in U.S. coinage.

Highest auction records:

19. 1878-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar: Die Pair – $199,750

1878 S Die Pair Liberty Seated Half Dollar

The Die Pair variety in this coin is extremely rare with only a handful known to exist. Experts estimate less than 4 in existence and some say it’s only one.

The most priced ($199,750) of this type is valuable because of its proof-like appearance despite being a normal circulation coin. It is ranked higher than the top four All-Time Finest PCGS graded Liberty Seated Half Dollars.

Highest auction records:

20. 1803 Draped Bust Half Dollar: Small 3 – $195,500

1803 Draped Bust Half DollarOnly 188,234 half dollars were made in 1803. There are two varieties, the first one being the ‘Small 3’ featuring a date imprinted by a die with a small number 3 that has a thinner and shorter stroke than its counterpart.

MS64 is the highest known grade with less than 4 others in Mint State.

Highest auction records:

The second variety is the ‘Large 3’, also with a high value including $183,000 for an MS64 and an MS63 for $115,000.

Read More:

Conclusion

The value of half-dollars mainly depends on age, mint errors, variety, and pristine condition. A common factor in the best-selling half dollars include high-grade coins with rare errors & variety like the 15 Stars Variety of the 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar and the 16- & 15-Star variety of the 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar.

To get the most money out of your half dollars, prioritize coins with the highest grades in their category and look for rare errors listed in our list. Happy Collecting!

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