Scot’s prior designs for the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust Half Dollars were not well received. So, John Reich was given the task of redesigning the half dime, dime, quarter, and half dollar coins. He created a Capped Bust concept for Miss Liberty. Once he completed the basic design, William Kneass, the Chief Engraver of the US Mint, modified it so that it would be acceptable as a coin design.
Miss Liberty now faced left. Her hair was under a cap with a headband inscribed with “LIBERTY” on it. Her hair now flowed out from under her cap. The gown that she wore was now closed with a clasp on her shoulder. There were seven six-pointed stars to her left and six six-pointed stars to the right, and the number of stars would remain at 13 going forward so they would not crowd the design. The date was below Miss Liberty.
The reverse of the coin was also redesigned. The eagle was now perched on an olive branch that she held in her left claw. In her right claw were three arrows, again representing that she was ready for Peace or war. Above the eagle was a scroll with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” on it and the motto “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” surmounted the design along the periphery with the denomination “50 C.” at the very bottom. The edge letter displayed “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR.”
Since no Silver Dollar coins were minted for circulation between 1804 and 1839, these Capped Bust Half Dollars served as the commercial workhorse for commerce. Many of these half dollars spent the majority of their time in bank bags and were traded back and forth between financial institutions.
Other than a handful of scarce dates, these coins struck between 1807 and 1836 are available and a simple date set is a formidable challenge but one that can be completed.
But in 1836, the US Mint began to employ steam-powered coin presses which made the work easier, and they could produce many coins much faster. The first coin struck on the new presses was the new Christian Gobrecht-modified Capped Bust Half Dollar. Miss Liberty was now even slimmer and younger than before, and she was posed in a more upright position. Six six-pointed stars are to the left and seven six-pointed stars are to the right.
The eagle on the reverse was similar to Reich’s design but slimmer and slightly more upright. The scroll on which “E PLURIBUS UNUM” was inscribed was removed. A brand-new feature – edge reeding – was implemented replacing the antiquated and awkward edge lettering. The coin was reduced in size from 32.5mm to 30mm, due to the price of silver increasing. One additional change was the inscribed denomination was changed from “50 C.” to “50 CENTS”.
By 1838,the Mint tinkered with the design once again and Miss Liberty now had more of a slight smile. The most striking change was the fact that now the denomination on the reverse was changed from “50 CENTS” to “HALF DOL.” In 1839 Philadelphia struck almost 1.4 million coins while the New Orleans Mint struck only 116,000 coins. Interestingly, the “O” mintmark was displayed above the date on the obverse, which is unusual, rather than on the reverse, which soon became the natural place to place and locate a mintmark.