The Barber Half Dollar
In 1892, the Half Dollar (along with the Dime and Quarter Dollar) were redesigned by U.S. Mint Engraver Charles Barber. After using the Seated Liberty motif for over fifty years, Mint officials felt that the silver denominations were in severe need of a revamping. Being a staff engraver, Barber’s primary concern was creating a design that was easy to produce with minimal difficulty to execute. His new motif for the Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar was regarded as a pleasant but safe choice.
The obverse displays a female portrait of Liberty wearing a Greek cap of liberty. Thirteen stars are displayed at the edge as a nod to the original thirteen colonies. The date is engraved at 6:00 PM and the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” is featured at top of the obverse. As for the reverse, an outstretched eagle is surrounded by “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “HALF DOLLAR.” A banner in the eagle’s beak reads “E PLURIBUS UNUM” while thirteen stars are engraved above the eagle’s head.
The new design was first unveiled in 1892 and struck at three Mint facilities: Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco. Being a brand new issue, many examples of the 1892 Barber Half Dollar were saved as souvenirs. A number of perfectly preserved specimens are known of this date; they were almost certainly stashed in 1892. A virtually perfect coin, graded MS68 by PCGS, sold in 2015 for nearly $40,000.
While the Barber Half Dollar series has a number of relatively scarce dates, none is prohibitively rare. It is possible to assemble a complete set of Barber Halves in circulated condition for well under $20,000. In fact, if one were to accept coins graded Very Good or Fine, a complete date set could be assembled for under $10,000. As a result of its affordability and relative ease to complete, the Barber Half Dollar series is a favorite among collectors.
There may not be any rare dates, but there is one extremely scarce variety. The 1892-O Micro O Half Dollar has a total population of just 85-95 pieces in all grades. Even heavily worn pieces trade for thousands of dollars each, while coins in Uncirculated can sell for over $30,000. The finest known specimen was last seen in a 1997; it sold for $59,400 then and has been graded MS68 by PCGS. If offered for sale today, it would likely fetch over $200,000.