US Coins 1818/7 Capped Bust Half Dollar

US Coins 1818/7 Capped Bust Half DollarUnited States Coins 1818/7 Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c

US Coins 1818/7 Capped Bust Half Dollar 50c

The obverse of Reich’s new design features the bust of Liberty, facing left. She is wearing a cap, which is referred to as a Phrygian or Freedom Cap, a symbol of the American Revolutionary War. Liberty’s hair is curling and flowing gently downwards and a small part of her dress can be seen just below the neck. There are seven stars in front and six additional stars behind, representing the original thirteen states in the Union. The headband carries the inscription LIBERTY, and the date, slightly curved, is seen beneath the portrait.

The reverse of the Capped Bust Half Dollar would be featured in various forms on much of the silver coinage of the 19th century. It features an American Bald Eagle, with wings spread and a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its claws. A scroll above the eagle includes the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, and nearly fully around is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The denomination, which is expressed as 50 C., is below the eagle. Reich was the first designer who consistently included the denomination within his designs.

  Introduced in 1807, the Capped Bust Half Dollars represented the third design for the denomination. This design would be used until 1836, and in slightly modified form until 1839, before being replaced. Production for the series would be relatively high, with mintages usually extending into the millions. Silver Dollars had not been minted since 1804, making the half dollar the coin of choice for silver depositors of the era. Across the higher mintages, many different varieties were created.  These die varieties are heavily collected, and as such, rare varieties can sell for remarkable premiums.
  The designer of the Capped Bust Half Dollar was John Reich, an immigrant from Germany who came to the United States in the early 19th century. He was recommended by President Thomas Jefferson to become an assistant engraver at the United States Mint in 1801. However, he would not take the position until 1807 since Robert Scot, chief engraver and designer of most of the early United States coins, had refused an assistant. John Reich was eventually hired when the health and eye sight of Scot began to decline. One of Reich’s first tasks was to redesign circulating coinage, which all featured Scot’s designs.
  In 1836 Reich’s designs were replaced by slightly modified versions prepared by Christian Gobrecht. It was also at this time when the weight, diameter, and edge of the half dollar were changed. The most noticeable  of the changes in design were the removal of the banner on the reverse including the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and the update of the denomination to read 50 CENTS. In 1838 the denomination would be modified again, replaced with HALF DOL.

US Coins

1829 Capped Bust Half Dime    1818/7 Capped Bust Half Dollar

1807-1836 Half Dollar Capped Bust Lettered Edge History

Some coins are admired by collectors. Many are coveted. Only a precious few are truly beloved. Early U.S. coppers, large cents and half cents, fall into this special category, and so do Capped Bust/lettered edge half dollars or, as they're widely known with warm affection, "Bust halves."
  Bust half dollars with lettered edges have undeniable charm, much like the copper coinage of early America. They were struck with screw presses, and each working die was prepared individually, the date, stars and lettering punched in by hand. These elements resulted in a myriad of varieties. They've also enabled specialists to pinpoint just which die struck any given coin. And this marvelous diversity is the yeast that keeps interest rising in these coins.
  The term "Bust halves" actually applies to both Capped Bust half dollars and the Draped Bust coins that preceded them. Draped Bust halves, in turn, come in two types: one with a small eagle on the reverse, the other with a larger, heraldic eagle. For a short time at the end of the Capped Bust coinage in the late 1830s, half dollars of that design were made with reeded edges, after the introduction of steam power at the U.S. Mint made that technology possible. The Bust halves most collectors view with the warmest affection, though, are the Capped Bust/lettered edge pieces issued by the Mint from 1807 to 1836. These are the real heart of this fondly remembered era in U.S. silver coinage.
  Design changes occurred with great frequency during the early years of U.S. coinage, and often they were triggered by a change in leadership at the Mint. So it was that Robert Patterson's arrival as the Mint's fourth director in 1806 set the stage for a shake-up in designs across the board.
  Patterson not only saw the need for new designs but also had a man in mind to create them. His handpicked choice was a talented, young, German-born engraver named John Reich. The Mint Director appealed for authorization to hire Reich as a staff engraver, maintaining that "the beauty of our coins would be greatly improved by his masterly hand." His argument carried the day, and in 1807 Reich was hired for the less-than-princely salary of $600 per year, not much more than common laborers made at that time. Then again, Reich had little leverage: he had come to the United States as an indentured servant in order to escape the Napoleonic Wars.
  Reich's redesign was truly comprehensive, encompassing every coin from the half cent through the half eagle, the lowest and highest denominations then being produced. His basic obverse design was a left-facing portrait of Liberty with curly hair tucked into a mobcap, a cap with a high, puffy crown. This likeness is often referred to as the "Turban Head" portrait. The reverse shows a naturalistic eagle with a shield superimposed upon its breast. On the Capped Bust/lettered edge half dollar, the edge bears the statement of value: FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR. For good measure, the inscription 50 C. appears below the eagle.
  Reich was widely accused of basing the buxom Liberty on his "fat mistress," though no confirmation of any specific model has ever been found. Whoever she may have been (if indeed there was such a model), the Capped Bust coinage was clearly an improvement over the Draped Bust style.
  During the 30-year lifespan of the series, Capped Bust/ lettered edge halves were issued every year with the single exception of 1816, when a major fire destroyed the Mint's rolling mills and forced it to suspend all silver coinage. Mintages routinely exceeded one million pieces a year, reaching a peak of more than 6.5 million in 1836, the final year. The low point occurred in 1815, when just 47,150 examples were struck. For almost every date, though, the total mintage is broken down into multiple major varieties, and these are what give the series its rich flavor and broad appeal. Overdates, deviations in the size of numbers and letters, shifts in the style of numbers, these and other varieties have captivated and challenged collectors for generations.
  The rarest of these varieties is the 1817-over-14. As of mid-1994, only six examples were known. Its rarity is underscored by the fact that the late Al C. Overton chose it as the cover coin for his popular book Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836, which serves as the standard reference work on the series. Overton's book, which identifies and codifies the many die varieties, greatly spurred interest in Bust halves. Collectors have paid homage to the author, in turn, by using "Overton numbers" as shorthand for the coins.
  In the first edition of his book, published in 1967, Overton put into words the affection he felt for his favorite coinage series. In the process, he summed up the reasons so many other hobbyists also find them so appealing: "The collection and study of our first series of United States half dollars ... has intrigued me almost since I began collecting in the late nineteen twenties. These early U.S. silver coins are not only beautiful and fascinating, but due to the large numbers made and minting methods of the earlier years, there exists a myriad of die varieties and sub varieties, that seem to be unequaled by any other U.S. series, not even the large cents. This offers an almost unlimited challenge to the collector who wishes to become a numismatic student of the early half dollars [and] at the same time, most are within reach of the average collector."
  Capped Bust/lettered edge half dollars are plentiful in high circulated grades. They're also readily available in mint state grades up to MS-64. Above that level, however, their numbers drop sharply. The overwhelming majority saw use in daily commerce, although their high face value (nearly half a day's pay for many workers) limited that use drastically. Proofs are known, but they are extremely rare. Points to check for wear include the drapery at the front of the bust and the edges of the eagle's wings.

1807-1839 Capped Bust Half Dollars: Specifications
  The Capped Bust Half Dollars issued for the initial years of the series included a lettered edge. From 1807 to 1814, the lettering reads “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR”. For the years 1814 to 1831, a single star was added between “DOLLAR” and “FIFTY”, and for 1831 to 1836, a vertical line was used. For all years when the lettered edge was used, the coins were struck on planchets with a composition of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. The standard weight was 13.48 grams or 208 grains and the standard diameter was 32.5 mm.
  From 1836 to 1839, Capped Bust Half Dollars were struck with a reeded edge and different specifications. The planchets had a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper. The standard weight was 13.36 grams or 206 grains, and the diameter was 30 mm.
  Due to the heavy use of dies, many coins of the series will look worn-out. The stars on the obverse are often weakly struck, together with the scroll on the reverse. The combination of a weak strike and subdued luster can often be mistaken for circulation wear, which can make grading the series difficult.
  Care should be taken when selecting coins, as many have been dipped, cleaned or otherwise damaged. Coins with original surfaces are in the distinct minority and have recently sold for large premiums over white, non-original coins.

1807-1839 Capped Bust Half Dollars: Mintages
The mintages for Capped Bust Half Dollars were relatively high, with figures exceeding the one million mark for most issues. Only a select few dates are considered to be rare, such as the 1815/2 with a mintage of 47,150 and the 1836 Reeded Edge with an estimated mintage of only 1,200. The highest mintage occurred with the 1836 Lettered Edge issue with a mintage of 6,545,000.
  Because of the higher mintages, most Capped Bust Half Dollars are relatively affordable, and collecting of this series has become popular. Individual dates are usually available in circulated grades, and for some dates uncirculated examples are not too difficult to acquire. Gems, however, remain scarce, and usually represent only a tiny percentage of the total population of uncirculated coins.
  Some collectors will take focus on the die varieties of the series, identified by Overton numbers. For nearly every issue of the series, a number of major varieties exist, which can carry different degrees of rarity. A full set of coins by die variety is nearly impossible to complete, although a few collectors have come close.

Capped Bust Half Dollar Mintage

Lettered Edge (1807-1836)

1807 750,500
1808 1,368,600
1809 1,405,810
1810 1,276,276
1811 1,203,644
1812 1,628,059
1813 1,241,903
1814 1,039,075
1815 47,150
1817 1,215,567
1818 1,960,322
1819 2,208,000
1820 751,122
1821 1,305,797
1822 1,559,573
1823 1,694,200
1824 3,504,954
1825 2,943,166
1826 4,004,180
1827 5,493,400
1828 3,075,200
1829 3,712,156
1830 4,764,800
1831 5,873,660
1832 4,797,000
1833 5,206,000
1834 6,412,004
1835 5,352,006
1836 6,545,000

Reeded Edge, Reverse 50 CENTS (1836-1837)

1836 1,200
1837 3,629,820

Reeded Edge, Reverse HALF DOL. (1838-1839)

1838 3,546,000
1839 1,392,976
1839-O 178,976

Breen, Walter, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, F.C.I. Press/Doubleday, New York, 1988.
Overton, Al C., Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836, 3rd Edition, edited by Donald Parsley, Escondido, CA, 1990.
Souder, Edgar E., Bust Half Fever, Money Tree Press, Rocky River, OH, 1995.
Taxay, Don, The U.S. Mint and Coinage, Arco Publishing Co., New York, 1966.
Yeoman, R.S., A Guide Book of United States Coins, 47th Edition. Western Publishing Co., Racine, WI, 1993.
Courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation An Historical Reference from the NGC PHOTO PROOF Series