Silver half dollars endured three changes in their first 10 years of existence, due to eager officials who were seeking the perfect design for America’s new coinage. An act on September 26, 1890, limited design changes to half-dollar coins to a 25-year period unless otherwise authorized by Congress. The half-dollar coins were eventually changed from figurative symbolism to commemorate political and public figures who contributed to great feats in American history.
1. Lady Liberty
John Eckstein modeled the Lady Liberty silver half dollar from a portrait done by Gilbert Stuart and then engraved by Robert Scot. Disappointed with the design, Stuart refused to have any part in the production and, because of this, his participation was unknown for years. The Lady Liberty half-dollar was produced for two years, 1796 and 1797, contains .8924 silver and .1076 copper, and is approximately 32.5mm in diameter. Because very few of these coins were minted, it is believed they are collected not by their type but because of their date.
2. Kennedy Half Dollar
The Kennedy half dollar was designed to pay tribute to the late president. This coin was the masterpiece of two designers: Gilroy Roberts, who designed the front of the coin with Kennedy’s face, and Frank Gasparro, who designed the back of the coin using Kennedy’s inaugural medal for the design. This half-dollar is composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and has a diameter of 30.6mm.
3. Seated Liberty Half Dollar
The Seated Liberty half dollar was designed by Christiam Gobrecht and minted from 1839 through 1891. Silver content in this half-dollar varied according to the year in which it was produced, ranging from .3600 to .3866 of pure silver. The diameter of the coin remained a constant 30.6mm. In 1866, the “In God We Trust,” motto was added to the backside of the coin just above the eagle, although there is confirmed existence of two half-dollar coins from that same year that do not contain the motto.
4. Franklin Half Dollar
Franklin half-dollar coins changed the nation’s coin designs from national figures to portraits for Americans who made an impression on the nation’s history. Franklin was attributed on a half-dollar because of his many offerings as a diplomat, inventor, and Founding Father. John R. Sinnock designed the Franklin half-dollar that was minted in the years 1948–1963, of .900 silver and .100 copper, with a diameter of 30.6mm.
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