The designer of the Capped Bust Half Dollar, John Reich, was a German bondsman who escaped from Germany during the Napoleonic Wars and accepted temporary assignments by the Mint. He is noted as the first engraver to consistently include the denomination of the silver and gold federal coins.
During the period of issue, which occurred each year between 1807 and 1839 (with the exception of 1816), hundreds of thousands of the millions of coins that were eventually minted went directly into bank reserve accounts. Then, approximately one hundred years later, during President Roosevelt’s bank holiday of 1933-1934, an exhaustive search was conducted of many of the bank cashier’s vaults. The resulting confiscation eliminated these reserves and the number of Capped Bust Half Dollars originally minted was reduced by an enormous meltdown.
- 1807-1836 Capped Bust, Lettered Edge Type
- 1836-1837 Capped Bust, Reeded Edge, 50 CENTS Type
- 1838-1839 Capped Bust, HALF DOL. Type
Bust Halves, as they are commonly known, were originally produced with a lettered edge which read fifty cents or half a dollar. In 1836, the close collar was used for the first time on half-dollars, producing a reeded edge and coins of a uniform diameter. Today, all reeded edge Bust Halves issued from 1836 to 1839 are highly prized by type coin collectors. The 1836 emission is very scarce with only 1,200 pieces originally produced. While technically this was a pattern issue, it is usually collected as part of the regular series. In 1838, the first branch mint half dollar was coined at the New Orleans Mint. This half-dollar is of the highest rarity and desirability. Of 20 originally coined (all as proofs), only 12 have been accounted for at the present time.