Most collectors and investors associate silver half dollars with 90% silver coins issued by the U.S. Mint in 1964 and earlier. After the Coinage Act of 1965, the composition of half dollars dropped from 90% silver to 40% silver. In 1971, the composition of the half dollar changed once again when the U.S. began minting coins made up of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Today, new half dollars produced for general circulation are still made with copper and nickel. While 90% silver half dollars are no longer produced by the U.S. Mint, many still exist and are highly sought after by coin buyers. Factors, such as the condition, rarity, year, and mint location can have a dramatic impact on the value and market. In this piece, we’ll share with you which half dollars can trade at a significant premium and which sell at their underlying silver content to help you make an informed decision when you buy and sell silver coins.
Bust Half Dollars
Bust half dollars are the earliest half dollars circulated in the U.S. They consist of three types, which were minted consecutively between 1794 and 1839: Flowing Hair half dollars were the first U.S. half dollars produced from 1794–1795, followed by the Draped Bust half dollars (1795–1803), and lastly, Capped Bust half dollars (1807–1839). As one would expect, the earliest issued coins, which also happened to be the lowest minted coins, trade at the highest values. Flowing half dollar coins can sell for thousands of dollars. They boast high values, but finding them in pristine condition can be extremely difficult and makes investment opportunities rare.
Barber Half Dollars
Barber half dollars were designed by George T. Morgan, the designer of the iconic Morgan silver dollar, and were produced from 1892–1915. Most of the Barber half dollars were produced in relatively large quantities and tend to be in fairly worn condition, as they were circulated for many years prior to the devaluation of silver from half dollars in 1965. However, a few key date or lower mintage coins exist, which can sell at a fairly significant premium. Of note, most of the half dollars produced in 1897 and earlier were produced in lower quantities, as well as the 1904-S, 1913-P, 1914-P, and 1915-P half dollars. Outside of proof coins, the most valuable of the Barber half dollars is an 1892-o. In particular, the “micro” O variety. As discussed, most of the Barber half dollars were heavily circulated, so even common date coins in higher-end condition, such as in Very Fine condition or better will sell at a premium.
Walking Liberty Half Dollars
The U.S. Mint produced Walking Liberty half dollars between 1916 and 1947. Many Walking Liberty coins can be quite valuable, especially a low mintage coin that is in high-end or certified condition. Some of the most popular dates are from 1916, 1919, and 1921. Those produced in limited quantities are considered rare or scarce dates and can sell for upwards of $1,000 or more if in high-end condition. However, these dates and values are more of an exception rather than the rule. Assembling a complete collection of Walking Liberty coins is relatively easy to do and can be done on a fairly modest budget. Considering the iconic image of Walking Liberty, which was used as the inspiration of the American silver eagle, and the popularity of these coins, they can make for a great long-term investment.
Franklin Half Dollars
Franklin Half Dollars were minted between 1948 and 1963. With more than 460 million produced during this time, they are quite common, and those in average circulated condition or with moderate wear sell for their underlying silver value. A common term for these coins is “junk silver.” However, because they were produced prior to 1965, all of them are 90% silver half dollars. Some Franklin half dollar coins, most notably the proof version and a few dates in high-end condition, such as the 1949-S and 1952-S, can have numismatic value in addition to the value of their bullion, so collectors can sell certain coins at a higher price.
1964 Kennedy Half Dollars
1964 Kennedy half dollars are very common, with a combined mintage of 433 million coins between the Philadelphia and Denver mints. Only the 1964 Kennedy half dollars are composed of 90% silver, so it’s important to check the dates on these coins to ensure that you’re buying or selling silver coins as opposed to nickel-copper coins. Because of their recency and following the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, which devalued the coins from 90% silver to 40% silver, many of these coins were hoarded by collectors and investors. The minimal time spent in circulation means that the condition of these coins tends to be much better than the previously discussed half dollars. Despite their frequency, their condition and underlying silver content make them worthy investments.