Barber Half Dollars (1892-1915)

Silver Barber Half Dollars were introduced by the United States Mint in 1892 along with new Barber Quarters and Barber Dimes.

1914 Barber Half Dollar

1914 Barber Half Dollar

All three take their name from the fact that they were designed by the same individual, U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. All three also showcase basically the same obverse of a bust of Liberty. On the reverse of Barber Half Dollars (and the quarter) is heraldic eagle is depicted.

Each coin was struck from 90% silver for a total silver weight of 0.3617 ounces (for a current melt value for the coins, try the Barber Half Dollar calculator in the right column). The 12.5 gram coins were produced at four different U.S. Mint facilities over their lifetime, including Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Before the introduction of Barber Half Dollars, the U.S. Mint had been striking the Seated Liberty Half Dollar since 1839. Through the work of U.S. Mint Director James P. Kimball, the Treasury Department (and thus the U.S. Mint) was given the ability to change coin designs after twenty-five years without the need for Congressional intervention.

Historical Barber Half Dollar Silver Coin Melt Values

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As the previous half dollar has been produced for over fifty years, plans were undertaken to replace it. After two unsuccessful attempts to get designs from outside artists, the job ultimately fell to the Mint’s chief engraver Charles E. Barber.

The obverse of the coin features a bust of Liberty complete with cap and wreath. These elements are surrounded by thirteen stars representative of the original thirteen colonies. As mentioned, this same obverse was basically used on two other new coins introduced that year, the Barber Quarter and the Barber Dime. Obverse inscriptions included "IN GOD WE TRUST" and the year of minting.

Shown on the reverse is a heraldic eagle with a shield over its chest and arrows and an olive branch gripped in its talons. In the eagle’s beak is a scroll with the inscription of "E PLURIBUS UNUM." Thirteen stars are also shown on the reverse along with the inscriptions of "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "HALF DOLLAR."

Barber Half Dollars were struck for twenty-five years until eventually replaced by the Walking Liberty Half Dollar in 1916. Collectors overlooked the coins for years but the series has gained increased attention recently with complete sets reasonably easy to obtain. Better quality examples are more difficult to find, however.

Those Barber Half Dollars with little or no numismatic value are still of interest to many as they have an intrinsic melt value associated with them since each is struck from 0.3617 ounces of silver.


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