United States coins are popular among collectors. Numismatists all over the world collect these interesting and often valuable coins. Half dollars from the years 1839 to 1891 and the years 1916 to 1947 are called “liberty” half dollars after the image of Lady Liberty on the front or obverse of the coin. The earlier coins depict her in a seated position and are known as “Liberty Seated” half dollars. Coins from the later period show her in a walking pose and are known as “Walking Liberty” half dollars. Values vary widely depending on condition and relative rarity of particular dates and mint marks.
1. Liberty Seated Half Dollars
Liberty Seated half dollar coins weighed 13.36 grams in the years 1839 to 1853, 12.44 grams from 1853 1873 and 12.5 grams from 1873 to 1891. They were designed by famous coin designer Christian Gobrecht. All contained 90 percent silver. At a bullion price of $18 an ounce, this would make any of these coins worth approximately $8 just for the silver content. However, as collectible coins, they can be worth considerably more, up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the rarest examples, such as an 1853-O “No Arrow or Rays” variety. Since the coins were minted in varying numbers at several different mints including Philadelphia, Carson City, New Orleans and San Francisco, they have wildly varying values depending on rarity. Condition also affects a coin’s value. Coins in closer to new condition are more valuable. Coins which are damaged, worn or which have been cleaned or polished are not as valuable. Coinsite.com lists the value of a typical, worn, circulated condition coin of this type as $20 to $200. Typical uncirculated condition coins of this type are listed at a value of $300 to $500. However, any coin is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Any particular coin may or may not fetch a value in this range.
2. Rarities and Key Dates
Certain dates and mint marks of Liberty Seated halves are considered especially desirable and valuable. For example, the 1853-0 “No Arrow or Rays” variety is extremely rare. A coin in the condition of VF-35 (very fine, circulated condition) sold for $368,000 dollars at auction in 2006. Uncirculated 1878-S coins can sell for around $100,000.
3. Walking Liberty Half Dollars
Walking Liberty half dollars minted from 1916 to 1947 depict Lady Liberty in a standing position on the obverse or front of the coin and an eagle on the reverse or rear. Designed by Adolph A. Weinman, they weighed 12.5 grams and contain 90 percent silver. At bullion prices of $18 an ounce for silver, this makes coins of this type worth about $8 dollars just for their silver content. However, like Seated Liberty halves, their value as collectibles makes them worth considerably more. Some particularly rare examples may be worth tens of thousands of dollars or more.
4. Rarities and Key Dates
Certain Walking Liberties are considered more desirable by collectors and investors and are therefore more valuable than other coins from this period in a similar condition. The 1916, 1916-S, 1917-D, 1917-S, all 1921 halves and the 1938-D are all desirable. Many of these coins have multiplied in value by 50 to 75 times since 1950. For example, U.S. Coin Values Advisor lists the value of a 1916-S in VG-8 (very good circulated) condition at $3.25 in 1950 and $175 in 2009. There is no reason to believe these coins will decrease in value.
5. Grading Services
There are several professional grading services which employ numismatic experts to grade coins, assessing their condition in relation to wear, luster and general appearance, as well as other factors. Coins graded by these services are more likely to command premium prices with collectors and dealers than ungraded coins. These services charge a fee, of course, but it is well worth it, especially since most of them also encapsulate the graded coin in an archival plastic holder which preserves the coin in its current state. Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS) are three of the most reputable, but there are others.
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