Flowing Hair Half Dollar - The Flowing Hair half
dollar was the first design for the denomination.
Half dimes and silver dollars used the same motif.
Often half dollars are collected by die variety, of
which there are many. They are listed by Overton numbers
in his book Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836.
Because of its low mintage of 23,464, its desirability
as the first silver half dollar coin, the 1794 issue
is extremely scarce. PGCS has certified 416 pieces
and NGC has 298 listed, and these numbers do not account
for crossovers or resubmissions. Twelve varieties
are listed for the date by PCGS.
Since neither Chief
Coiner Henry Voigt, nor Assayer Albion Cox could post
the $10,000 bond required for handing the precious
metals for their respective positions, copper coin
was made in the Mint’s first year of 1793. Thomas
Jefferson wrote to President Washington on December
10th of that year requesting that the bond requirement
be reduced. Washington agreed to persuade Congress,
and the bond amount was lowered in the Act of March
3, 1794. When silver was deposited, the new Engraver
Robert Scot had to complete punches and dies for the
new coins. Adam Eckfeldt, a Mint worker and later
second Chief Coiner, helped Scot make a copy of the
large cent Liberty head to be used for the half dollar’s
obverse and an eagle for the reverse. Letters, numbers,
stars, and leaf punches were also made. On December
1, 1794, approximately 5,300 pieces were made. In
January 1795, another 18,000 were produced using the
1794 dies. Using old dies in the next years became
a rather common practice in the Mint to save the expense
of making new ones.
By law the silver
half dollar had to carry a design “emblematic
of Liberty.” To implement this requirement,
Scot designed a right-facing profile portrait of a
youthful female whose hair flowed behind her. The
flowing hair was supposed to symbolize freedom. The
word LIBERTY is above her head, and the date is below.
Between the date and LIBERTY are 15 stars, for the
number of states in the Union. Eight stars are to
the left and seven are to the right. The reverse shows
a small eagle with its wings spread. It is perched
on a rock and within a wreath of laurel. The border
has the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The denomination
FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR, with decorations between
the words, is on the edge of the coin.
Designer: Robert Scot Weight: 13.48 grams Composition: .8924 silver, .1076
copper Diameter: approximately 32.5 mm Edge: FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR
with decorations between