Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society

Bust Half Dollars:

by Joe Garbarini, WINS#9

Edgar E. Souders in his 1995 book "Bust Half Fever" described the illness in these words: "People who collect Capped Bust Halves are crazy. If they are not that way when they first begin doing it, they soon become so. Bust Half fever is real."

Bust Half Dollars were first minted at the original US Mint in 1794--total mintage 23,464. At some time during the year 1807 John Reich became "Assistant Engraver" (actually the top man) and changed the design to a Capped Bust Half Dollar those coins are most associated with him. If you see a BHD 1807-1817 with a scalloped 13th star it means Reich himself did the engraving. In 1817 Reich resigned and the "Chief engraver Robert Scot took over. He only lived until 1823 and was replaced by William Kneass. That suggests it should be mentioned that until 1836 the entire process of producing the coins including the use of screw presses was done by hand. It should also be mentioned that in 1815 the Mint was in operation for only one day (mintage 47,150) before being destroyed by fire. That is the date our WINS member Ben Blake wants. A nice coin will probably cost $5,000. My 1815/2 O-101 ANACS 30 purchased four years ago before prices went on a rocket ride cost a bargain $3,200.

Back to some history-- there were seven USA presidents during the time of the BHD, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe John Quincy Adams and Jackson. In 1807 the entire population of the USA was 7,000,000. The total production of BHD, most after 1830, 1807-1836 was 82,000,00. That is the approx. production number for 1979 JFK Halves.


Grading is an important factor in collecting any coins. For BHD the collector attempting to grade the coins must be aware they were hand made, poor quality steel was often used, and strike quality varied. Because collectors of all coins are familiar with a number system I offer one of my own for quality of BHD strikes. Please be aware these are generalizations. Early strikes can vary greatly from later strikes. Weak strike 1-4, good strike 5-9, very good strike 10-14, excellent strike 15-19. Because steam coin presses were not used by the mint until March 23,1836, all of the lettered edge BHD were made on screw presses and none rate more than 15.

  • 1807 S2
  • 1808,09, 13, and 14 S4
  • 1810,18 through 17, and 23 S7
  • 1818, 25,26 and 29 S9--1819, 20, 21, 22, and 24 S12
  • 1836 S14
  • 1827 through 1835 S15
The overdate coins had different striking experiences:
  • 1808/7, 1817/13 and 1817/14 S2
  • 1811/10,1812/11, 1814/13, 1818/7 1820/19, 1824/1, and 1824/various S4
  • 1829/7 S5
  • 1815/2, 1819/8, and 1827/6 S4
  • 1836/6 S5

Getting Started

OK at this point you may have decided to start a BHD collection. What to do first? Purchase Overton's and Souders' books and really study them. Then win a major lottery or be prepared to spend a significant amount from your savings. One WINS member tries to obtain all the varieties he can find for less than $100.00. There are still some available but not in the better grades, and they are not easy to locate. Personally, I started in 1961 with overdate coins. Then had a long hiatus from collecting - BAD, BAD, BAD. Prices had risen from a day's wages to a week's, a month's or longer. Nevertheless I started to put together a year set including the pre CBHD of late 1807 (1794-1807). CBHD were made in every year 1807-1836 except 1816.

My set is missing 1794, 1796, 1797 in Fine and lower grade the prices for those three are $x,xxx and $xx,xxx. What recommendations do I have for you? The study and collecting of BHD is interesting and fun. Find some varieties you like and go for them.          Joe Garbarini


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