Half Dollar, Draped Bust, Coin Type from United States - detailed information

Half Dollar, Draped Bust, Coin Type from United States (issued 1796 - 1807)
Coin TypeHalf Dollar, Draped Bust

The Half Dollar is a United States coin worth 50 cents; it has been produced since 1796.

The Draped Bust design was the first type of half dollar issued into circulation. It features on the obverse the draped bust of Miss Liberty, giving the design its name. The design is the same as on other denominations of the same period; the value and was not written on the reverse of the coin, but on the edge (unlike the smaller denominations which had reeded edges so their value had to be inferred by size). The obverse was paired with two different reverses, a standing "small" eagle (in 1796 and 1797 only) and the "heraldic eagle" from the Coat of Arms of the United State (1801 to 1807). The composition is 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper.

In 1807, the design of the denomination changed to the Capped Bust obverse and a new eagle reverse. In later years, there were also changes in size and composition (the denomination is now smaller and made of copper-nickel), but these coins have never been demonetised and are still legal tender. This, of course, is of academic interest only, as their numismatic value is enormously higher than their face value.


The obverse of the coin shows a portrait of Liberty with flowing hair, facing right.

Around above, the inscription LIBERTY. On the 1796 and 1797 issues - around the rim, fifteen stars (eight to the left and seven to the right) representing the 15 states which were then members of the Union. On later issues this was changed to show 13 stars instead, for the 13 initial members of the Union.

Below the portrait, the date of issue: [year].

The rim is denticled (toothed).

Obverse Inscription ******* LIBERTY ****** [year]
United States / Half Dollar, Draped Bust - reverse photo

There were two different reverses with the Draped Bust obverse.

Small Eagle (1796 and 1797); called "small" as compared to the later design paired with the Capped Bust Liberty.
The main device on the reverse is an eagle, standing, with open wings, looking to right. Around the eagle, a laurel wreath. Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The rim is denticled (toothed). Value and denomination are not displayed on the coin.

Heraldic Eagle (1801 - 1807): at centre, the main part of the obverse (or front) of the Great Seal of the United States, which displays the full achievement of the national coat of arms. The design has the Union Shield at centre, legally blazoned as "paleways of 13 pieces, argent and gules; a chief, azure" (thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top). The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). The supporter of the shield is a bald eagle with its wings outstretched (or "displayed", in heraldic terms). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of seven arrows in its right talon, and an olive branch in its left talon. In its beak, the eagle clutches a scroll with the motto E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One"). Over its head there appears a "glory" with of clouds and 13 mullets (stars).

The recurring number 13 refers to the 13 original states. The arrows and olive branch together symbolise that the United States has "a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war". The eagle has its head turned towards the arrows - unlike later versions where it looks towards the olive branch, to symbolise a preference for peace.

Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

EdgeMilledEdge InscriptionNone
Royal Mint
Royal Mint
Half Dollar, Draped Bust: Details
CountryUnited States
CurrencyUS Dollar
Sub-type ofHalf Dollar
Face Value50 (x Cent)
Material0.892 Silver
DesignerRobert Scot
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
OrientationCoin Alignment (Axis 6)
Size32.5000 mm
Mass13.4800 g