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The half dollar was introduced into circulation with the Flowing Hair design from 1794-1795. Met with heavy criticism, the coin was redesigned in 1796 when the Draped Bust half dollar was introduced. The first series lasted only two years and included three distinct varieties. Of the 3,918 half dollars minted of the 1796-7 design type, probably fewer than 300 or 400 survive today.
Half dollars were not struck again until 1801, when the Draped Bust received a new reverse design of the Heraldic Eagle. This lasted through 1807 when the Draped Bust gave way to the newly designed Capped Bust half dollar. This series contains many interesting variations and was continuously minted through 1839.
The Seated Liberty design circulated from 1839 to 1891, including no motto and with motto variations, which eventually gave way to the Barber half dollar in 1892. This new series was minted until 1915, contributing to the popularity of the Barber Coin Collector’s Society.
In 1916, the Liberty Walking half dollar appeared. These were produced intermittently though 1947 with very favorable design reviews. Then, in 1948, the Franklin half dollar was introduced to a less than stellar reception for the “unattractive” design. This series was produced through 1963, when it was quickly redesigned with a Kennedy motif following the late president’s assassination. This series is still in circulation today. The silver content of the half dollar was reduced from 90% to 40% in 1965, and in 1971, the composition changed again to copper-nickel clad.