Coin Specifications

Category: Early Halves (1794-1839)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 47,150
Obverse Designer: John Reich
Reverse Designer: John Reich
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.8920
Weight: 13.4800g
ASW: 0.3866oz
Melt Value: $7.05 (3/30/2017)
Diameter: 32.5mm
Edge: Lettered
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1815/2 50C MS obverse 1815/2 50C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

The American Revolution, while establishing our de facto independence from Great Britain, failed to secure our economic autonomy from the British Empire. This situation was mildly tolerable to the United States until Napoleon Bonaparte toppled one European nation after another during the opening decade of the 19th century. The heightened tension between England and the European continent spilled over to sour Britain's relationship with her former North American colony. As more and more American ships fell victim to the Royal Navy's blockade of the European mainland and President Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 failed to reverse the declining economic plight of our merchants, Americans were left with no other choice but to demand immediate, decisive action. Led by the War Hawks in Congress, the United States finally declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

Instead of improving America's economic standing overnight, however, the war effort sent matters from bad to worse. As the American public resorted to the strict use of bullion in their daily transactions, paper money fell into disuse and, not surprisingly, gold and silver coins began to disappear from circulation in ever growing numbers. The British invasion and destruction of Washington, D.C. in 1814 only exacerbated the problem and widespread hoarding became the norm. The half dollar, the staple denomination of the United States banking system since President Thomas Jefferson suspended coinage of the silver dollar in 1803, was one of the hardest hit by this alarming turn of events. Since the Philadelphia Mint received no silver bullion deposits throughout most of 1815, its half dollar presses sat idle. Meanwhile, stunning American military victories, combined with Britain's mounting share of the war effort in Europe, resulted in the Treaty of Ghent. Signed on December 24, 1814, this treaty ended the War of 1812 and bound both the United States and Great Britain to accept the status quo ante. As communications in the early 19th century were not what they are today, the news of peace failed to reach North America before U. S. and British forces clashed at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. Despite Andrew Jackson's stunning success in the battle and the crowning achievement of peace that followed in its wake, the economic situation in the United States returned to normal very slowly. It would take until the end of the year before citizens deposited sufficient quantities of silver bullion to enable the Philadelphia Mint to resume half dollar coinage. The Mint's staff hurriedly grabbed a pair of old 1812 dies, punched a 5 over the 2, and coined 47,150 1815 half dollars. This meager mintage proved to be the lowest of the entire Capped Bust half dollar series.

Born out of the turmoil of the War of 1812, this low mintage half dollar actually came within a hair's breath of being preserved by a future war. During the Civil War, the New Harmony Society of Economy, Pennsylvania buried vast quantities of Capped Bust half dollars to prevent them from falling into the hands of marauding rebel cavalry. Discovered in 1878, the Economite Hoard yielded 111,356 Capped Bust half dollars, a total that included at least a hundred examples of the elusive 1815. The discovery, however, proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for modern numismatists as the coins were harshly scrubbed and placed into circulation! Today, while sliders and impaired pieces exist in sufficient enough quantities to satisfy less fickle numismatists, original, high grade Mint State survivors are rare and always in great demand.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 9/11/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1815/2 50C MS
Base $ 1775 2100 3150 5200 6350 10800 13400 16500 19750 24500 27000 32500 42500 76500 120000 150000 - - - -
$ 7000 - - 18000 21500 - - - - 90000 - 215000 - -

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Total Graded: 253
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 45
High Grade: 65

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
4/29/1996 PCGS VF 20   Teletrade Auction 0836, 836/Lot# 530 $1,458.00
2/27/2006 NGC VF 20   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 76, 81/Lot# 573 $2,530.00
5/9/2007 PCGS XF 45   Heritage Auctions 2007 St. Louis, MO (CSNS) Signature Coin Auction #434, 434/Lot# 712 $5,175.00
9/4/2011 PCGS AU 53   Goldberg September 4-6, 2011 The Pre-Long Beach Auction, 65/Lot# 1200 $9,487.50
10/12/2014 PCGS   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 10/12/2014, 190/Lot# 139226 $1,500.00
3/27/2015 PCGS   Stack's Bowers March 2015 Baltimore, 6065/Lot# 5511 $998.75
9/7/2016 NGC AU 58   Heritage Auctions 2016 September 7 - 11 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(5), 1239/Lot# 5501 $14,100.00
10/31/2016 PCGS VF 25   Heritage Auctions 2016 October 31 - November 2 US Coins Signature Auction - New York Session(3), 1241/Lot# 5269 $4,582.50
1/4/2017 NGC Details XF Details  Heritage Auctions 2017 January 4 - 9 FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Session(2), 1251/Lot# 4233 $3,525.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1815/2 50C MS
1815/2 50C MS Prooflike
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 66
Points: 13794
Owner: Heartland Collection
Grade: AU 50
Points: 3260
Owner: goldsaint
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