Barber Half Dollar
In 1891, the current Liberty Seated Dimes, Quarters and Half Dollars were long overdue for a change and the current Mint Director, Edward O. Leech, wasted no time in calling for artists to sketch their ideas for new coinage. A request for proposal was sent to ten prominent American artists/sculptors who refused to send in new proposals since the Mint changed the rules by offering to only pay the winner of the competition. Previously, all who responded received some compensation for their time and effort. With the professional artists out of the competition, the Treasury opened the competition to the public. But no entries were deemed worthy of the prize money. Leech ordered Barber to prepare some internal proposals.
Leech wanted proposals from Barber that displayed an obverse similar to the head on the then-circulating French coinage. He was also content with allowing the Liberty Seated coinage reverses to be allowed to continue. After several efforts, the designs Barber created were identical, except in size and mottoes on the obverses and only the Dime differed on the reverse.
His obverse had a head of Miss Liberty, facing right. On her head is a Phrygian cap with a headband on which is inscribed the word “LIBERTY.” The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” is above her head and the date is below. There are 13 six-pointed stars, seven to the right of Miss Liberty and six behind her head.
The reverse has an American eagle with upturned wings. She has a shield covering her breast, an olive branch in her right talon and 13 arrows in her left. There is a scroll on which is inscribed “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in her beak. 13 five-pointed stars are above the eagle and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” surrounds the eagle with the denomination, “HALF DOLLAR” below her. It has a reeded edge.
The coins were struck in 1892 and between 1900 and the end of the mintage in 1915, six date and mintmark combinations proved scarce - 1901-S, 1904-S, 1905-O, 1913, 1914, and 1915. The Barber coinage ended in 1916 as Roosevelt’s “Renaissance in American Coinage” was well underway and staid designs such as these were no longer welcomed.