In mid-1807 the Draped Bust Half Dollar was succeeded by the Capped Bust of Liberty that featured a reverse known to collectors whimsically as the "sandwich board" eagle. Though modified several times over the next thirty years, this same basic design was struck every year but 1816 and was employed through 1836, when the lettered edge half dollar gave way to the reeded edge style. Subsequent half dollar types were largely standardized and feature only minor varieties. This section covers Overton die varieties for Capped Bust Half Dollars from 1807 through 1821. Later dates are described in the subsequent two sections.
Half dollar die varieties from 1807-1836 are quite popular with variety specialists. Since many of the design elements required to complete a die were punched into it by hand, each die is readily distinguishable. Half dollars are especially popular with collectors, since so many have survived at or near the mint state level. This was due to their relatively large mintages, combined with the fact that they often remained idle in bank vaults as a hard-money backing for paper currency.
NGC will assign Overton (O) numbers to all half dollars die varieties from 1807 through 1821. In Overton's system, the first die variety listed is given the number 101, and each date begins anew with this number, followed by O-102, O-103, etc. Later die states within a single die pairing use suffix letters. For example, 1808 variety 107 is identified successively as O-107 and O-107a.
A more recent publication that offers a "quick-finder" attribution guide for Overton varieties is the book by Glenn R. Petersen. Beginners will find this later effort quite useful. Also entertaining and useful is the Edgar Souders book, which imparts the sheer joy of collecting these handsome and varied issues. Mr. Souders also penned a quick-finder guide to some of the scarcer varieties.
Below is a list of half dollar die varieties NGC recognizes, beginning with 1808 half dollar varieties and ending with 1821 half dollar varieties. Access to the detailed pages of the half dollar die varieties you see below is part of NGC Collectors Society membership. Die variety detail pages contain population information as well as NGC database images for available half dollar varieties.
NGC also provides information on other half dollar varieties:
Half Dollar Varieties (1794-1807) | Half Dollar Varieties (1822-1828) | Half Dollar Varities (1829-1836) | Reeded Edge Half Dollar Varieties (1836-1839) | Seated Liberty Half Dollar Varieties (1839-1891) | Barber Half Dollar Varieties (1892-1915) | Walking Liberty Half Dollar Varieties (1916-1947) | Franklin Half Dollar Varieties (1948-1963) | Kennedy Half Dollars (1964-Date)
* In order to have the above varieties requiring the $15 fee designated by
NGC, VarietyPlus service must be requested at time of grading.
VarietyPlus service is also available for coins already encapsulated by NGC.
For coins where the fee column is blank, no VarietyPlus charge is required to
have your coin designated during grading. For coins marked $15, a $15 surcharge
applies to the tier fee during grading, or a $15 fee applies to have the VarietyPlus
designation added to any coin already graded and encapsulated by NGC.
Overton, Al C. Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836, 3rd Edition. Donald L. Parsley, Escondido, CA, 92025 (a 4th edition has been published, but the 3rd Edition is recommended)
Peterson, Glenn R., M.D. The Ultimate Guide to Attributing Bust Half Dollars. Money Tree Press, Rocky River, OH, 2000
Souders, Edgar E. Bust Half Fever 1807-1836. Money Tree Press, Rocky River, OH, 1995
Souders, Edgar E. The Top 100 R4 and R5 Capped Bust Half Dollar Varieties & Sub-Varieties. Money Tree Press, Rocky River, OH, 2002