Barber Half Dollars, 1892-1915
Issued Date: 1892-1915
Composition: 0.900 parts silver, 0.100-part copper
Diameter: 30.6 mm.
Weight: 192.9 grains
Total Business strike mintage: 135,916,889
Total Proof strike mintage: 17,313
When the public began clamoring for design changes in U.S. coins in the early 1890’s, a public competition was held in order to choose entirely new designs. The outcome resulted in failure. Not one design submitted to the Mint officials was acceptable. Therefore, looking internally, Mint Officials selected the designs of Chief Mint Engraver Charles Barber and adopted them. His somewhat bland, yet uncluttered designs were used on the dime and quarter, in addition to the half dollar, until 1916.
Liberty faces right, her hair is in a Phrygian cap, and a wreath of laurel encircles her head. The word LIBERTY appears on a small band or ribbon above her forehead. IN GOD WE TRUST is above, six stars are to the left, seven stars are to the right, and the date is below. The reverse is an adaptation of the Great Seal of the United States and features a heraldic eagle grasping an olive branch and arrows and holding in its beak a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. A galaxy of stars is above. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR surround.
Of the three Barber series, the half-dollars have traditionally been the most difficult to obtain in Mint State condition. This underrated series has many better dates, including the branch mint issues of 1896, 1897, 1901 and 1904, and the Philadelphia Mint issues of 1913 to 1915. In fact, of the 73 date and mintmark issues, 21 have mintages under one million pieces, while at the peak of production no more than six million coins were ever produced at any one mint in a single year.
The type set collector will encounter no difficulty in acquiring specimens in grades of Good or Very Good. Fine pieces, believe it or not, are scarce, Very Fine coins are very scarce, and Extremely Fine coins can be called rare in the context of modern issues. AU coins are rarer yet, Uncirculated pieces are still more rare, and superb Uncirculated pieces are very rare. Proofs exist in proportion to their original mintages. The reason for the rarity of higher grade circulated pieces is that, like quarter dollars of the same type, the word LIBERTY tended to wear quickly one pieces were placed in circulation.