Type 1, Lettered Edge

Obverse of 181 Half Dollar
Reverse of 1811 Half Dollar

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Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): In 1807 the Capped Bust obverse was introduced. Liberty now faces left, wearing a cap secured at the base with a ribbon or band inscribed LIBERTY, with tresses falling to her shoulder. Her low neckline is draped in a cloth or a gown and is secured by a brooch on her shoulder. Seven stars are to the left and six are to the right. The date is below. The reverse depicts an eagle perched on an olive branch and holding three arrows, with E PLURIBUS UNUM above on a scroll and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 50C surrounding. The edge displayed the lettering FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR.

Although there are a number of scarce varieties in the 1807-1836 range, most are readily obtainable. Specimens of most issues are typically encountered in grades from Fine to Extremely Fine, with some of the earlier dates in the range, 1807 through 1820, sometimes seen in Good to Very Good preservation. AU pieces are not difficult to find, especially of dates in the late 1820s and 1830s. Many of these pieces were held by, and traded between banks (as no silver dollars were struck for circulation between 1803 and 1840) so many survived with relatively light wear.

Uncirculated coins, particularly ones in higher ranges are elusive with superb pieces being scarce to rare. Many examples show lightness of striking, particularly on the stars on the obverse, the high parts of Miss Liberty, and E PLURIBS UNUM on the reverse. Among Uncirculated pieces, examples typically have friction or rubbing at the lower left of the bust, from coin-to-coin contact in bank bags.

Bust Halves enjoy great popularity from die variety collectors due to their relative availability, moderate price, and plethora of die varieties such as overdates, numeral shapes, large and small lettering, star sizes and other anomalies. Al C. Overton’s book provides the “roadmap” for collectors of this interesting series.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers