Monthly Archives: February 2014

Early American Half Dollars for Collectors

At one point in history, the U.S. half dollar was the workhorse of the American economy. Today, these medium-sized coins are highly desirable among many coin collectors. Here’s a short guide to early American half dollars:

Flowing Hair Half Dollars

America’s first half dollar was minted between 1794 and 1795. It’s size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was used frequently in the Americas at this time. The obverse side featured a profile of Liberty with windswept hair. The reverse featured an eagle with wings raised, standing within a wreath. In good condition, Flowing Hair halves can be worth thousands of dollars.


Draped Bust Half Dollars

The Draped Bust half dollar was issued from 1796 to 1807. This piece of ancient coinage included a new rendition of Liberty, with her loose hair tired in a ribbon. On the reverse, beamed a smaller eagle within a wreath. This coin was produced in fairly large numbers, particularly after 1804 when the dollar coin was suspended. By far the most common date of the Draped Bust half dollar is 1806, although, there are a few 1801, 1802 and 1803 coins still circulating today.


Capped Bust Half Dollars

Following the Drapped Bust half dollar was the Capped Bust design. This coin was introduced by Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, William Kneass. The Capped Bust series pictured Liberty donning a cloth cap on her head, while the reverse side contained the smaller eagle with a shield. Up until 1836, the edge of the fifty-cent coin featured the denomination. However, partway through 1836 the coin’s edge was replaced with a simpler reeded style.


Liberty Seated Half Dollars

The Seated Liberty design was crafted by noted portraitist Thomas Sully and executed by U.S. Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht. Seated Liberty halves remained in production for more than 50 years, from 1839 through 1891. This series featured Liberty seated on her rock, with a liberty cap on a pole in her hand while the other hand rested on a shield inscribed LIBERTY. The reserve side depicts an eagle clutching an olive brand and arrows. Amid the religious Civil War years, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reserve in 1866 and continued through the end of the series.


Barber Half Dollars

Following the Seated Liberty, the U.S. Treasury was looking for a refreshed design. As a result, these Liberty Head half dollars were minted between 1892 and 1916 by Charles Barber. More commonly known as “Barber half dollars,” the obverse side features Liberty’s profile, wearing a cap and laurel wreath on her head. On the reverse is a Heraldic Eagle. Thirteen starts appear on both sides to represent the 13 original colonies.

barber-half-dollarGary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on


U.S. Presidential Coins in Circulation Today

kennedyhalfdollarPresidents’ Day is a national holiday held on the third Monday of February each year. While Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both held birthdays during the month of February, today we celebrate all presidents! And we honor our presidents by featuring them on U.S. coins. The presidents displayed on the following circulating coins were all hand selected by Congress. While each president was chosen under different circumstances, they each appear on the obverse or front side of a coin.

Lincoln Penny

The first Lincoln penny was produced in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Designed by Victor Brenner, the “wheat penny” has wheat ears on the reverse. Today, the reverse side contains the Lincoln Memorial. This one-cent coin is made of copper, with the exception of the 1943 steel penny. Nearly all circulating pennies at that time were struck in zinc-coated steel because copper and nickel were needed for WWII.

Roosevelt Dime

The death of Franklin D. Roosevelt prompted many requests to the U.S. Treasury Department to honor the late president. Less than one year after his death, the dime bearing John R. Sinnock’s portrait of FDR was released on the president’s birthday, January 30, 1946. The Roosevelt dime bears a torch, olive branch and oak branch on the reverse side, which symbolizes liberty, peace, strength, and independence.

Washington Quarter

In 1932, the Washington quarter replaced the standing liberty quarter. Designed by sculptor John Flanagan, this coin was selected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our first president’s death. The reverse side depicts an eagle holding a bundle of arrows with two olive branches. In 1975, the George Washington Bicentennial quarter was produced to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the independence of the United States.

Kennedy Half Dollar

The tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy prompted President Lyndon Johnson to request that Congress authorize the Treasury Department to create new 50-cent pieces. These half dollar coins contained a portrait designed by Gilroy Roberts of the late JFK. The first Kennedy half-dollars were minted on February 11, 1964 and made of 90 percent silver. From 1965 to 1970 the silver content was reduced to 40 percent. Beginning in 1971, all Kennedy half-dollars made for circulation contained a mixture of copper and nickel and contain no silver.

Eisenhower dollar

The Eisenhower dollar was issued from 1971 to 1978. This was the first U.S. dollar coin to be issued since the Peace dollar series, which ended in 1935. The reverse contains an eagle clutching an olive branch landing on the Moon, based on the Apollo 11 mission. Frank Gasparro designed both sides of the Eisenhower dollar. This coin is made of copper and nickel, with the exception of the 1971-S (made in San Francisco Mint), which is 40 percent silver.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on


How Coins Are Made

When people consider how coins are made, large machines and noisy factories come to mind. There isn’t just one machine that can produce and pop out a finished coin – there’s a lot to this process. After all, a coin is pretty much a piece of art. Currently, coins are made in Fort Knox KY, Denver CO, Washington DC, West Point NY, Philadelphia PA, and San Francisco CA. Over 23 million U.S. coins were produced in 2013. Want to know more about the coin production process? Read below.

Step 1 – Blanking

Picture an extremely long sheet of metal getting fed into a machine. These sheets are about a foot wide. The machine then punches out the circular shape of the coin. Of course, that leaves a lot of extra, unused metal. It gets recycled.

Step 2 – Annealing & Washing

After the coins are cut into circular shape, they get heated, then washed and polished in chemicals. At this step, they are called “planchets.” By definition, a planchet is a metal disk to be stamped as a coin.

Step 3 – Edge Rolling

Coins get their edges and thickness in what is called the “upsetting” process. This also makes the edges smoother. If this process didn’t exist, your coins would probably cut you when you reached in your pockets!

Step 4 – Striking/Stamping

This is the step that most people are familiar with. The coins get pressed with a stamp/design. This basically makes the coin official U.S. tender. The machines don’t press one coin at a time though. It’s usually 2 or 4 at a time. It’s also at this stage where most coins get their ridges on the edge.

Step 5 – Inspecting/Counting/Bagging

This step is pretty self-explanatory. The machine operators literally take out a magnifying glass and inspect the coins. The coins are then automatically counted and bagged, and later shipped to the banks. Pretty cool process, right?

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on