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Draped Bust Half Dollar

Draped Bust Half Dollar

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Draped Bust

The public reaction to the Flowing Hair Half Dollar, especially the appearance of Miss Liberty, caused this coin to be redesigned by Robert Scot. The colonial portrait artist, Gilbert Stuart, who painted many of the Founding Fathers and did several portraits of Washington, did some sketches for Scot to use as his model.

Miss Liberty appeared older and more mature. Now her hair wasn’t flying away in fright as the public expected but was pulled back and tied with a ribbon. She faced right and had the word “LIBERTY” above her. There were seven six-pointed stars in front of her face and eight six-pointed stars behind her head. The date, as always, was below her. The reverse was the same with the exception of a numerical denomination “1/2” below the wreath that encircled the small eagle.

For 1796 the actual mintage is unknown, but even so, there were two different varieties sharing that date. The first variety has 15 six-pointed stars as described above. The second variety had 16 six-pointed stars, with seven stars still in front of her but now there were nine six-pointed stars behind her. The mint added a star since Tennessee joined the Union on June 1, 1796. But the mint realized quickly that adding a star for each state would quickly make the stars the most important element on the coins and that was not their intention.

In 1797, the design was modified to bring the obverse back to only 15 stars but later the mint would return to using a group of only 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies. All 1796 and 1797 half dollars are equally rare with such a scant mintage for the three different varieties of coins.

No Draped Bust Half Dollars were struck between the last year of the Small Eagle design - 1797 - and 1800. In 1801, yet another redesign effort took place. Robert Scot was asked to redesign this coin yet again, the third design in less than ten years. This time, the obverse of the coin had only a minor change – going back to a 13 six-pointed star obverse formation. But the reverse underwent a complete overhaul. The Small Eagle variety was replaced with a more majestic Heraldic Eagle design. The eagle, itself, was much larger and had outstretched wings. On her chest was a Union shield. There were 13 six-pointed stars above her and a grouping of clouds above the stars. In the eagle’s beak was a banner upon which the phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM” was inscribed. In her left talon was an olive branch and in her right were 13 arrows. The motto “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” surmounted her. The edge (rim) of the coin bore the words “FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR.”


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