This John Reich design has Liberty facing left wearing a soft cap with LIBERTY incused. The soft cap has no particular meaning; it was just the fashion of the day. Seven stars are arranged along the left rim, and six stars are placed along the right rim. The date remains at the bottom. The reverse has a more natural-appearing eagle, with the Union shield imposed on its chest. E PLURIBUS UNUM, still incused on a ribbon, was moved to form an arc above the eagle. The eagle clutches arrows and an olive branch, each in its proper claw in terms of heraldry. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is arranged around the central devices, with the denomination at the bottom expressed as 50 C. The denomination is also on the edge of the coin, expressed as FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR.
Known in the numismatic community simply as “Bust Halves”, this series is one of the few that have a huge and strongly passionate following. This issue, along with perhaps only early copper half cents and large cents, can truly be termed “dearly loved” by its collectors; it was the end of an era of virtually hand-made coins. The screw presses that minted the coins were powered by men, and each die was hand-made with each star, date and letter being individually hand punched. This process led to a treasure trove of varieties for aficionados to study and acquire. Toss in the 30-year run for the series and it is easy to understand why there are so many different varieties. During that 30-year life, coins were minted every year except for 1816, when a fire at the Mint destroyed equipment. Large mintages were the norm for this series, further enhancing the collecting possibilities. As many were made, many are available, making them a very affordable area, even in Mint-state condition. For all the reasons stated, this is one of the most highly collected issues in all of American numismatics.
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