The Half Dollar of the United States, sometimes known as the fifty-cent piece, has been produced nearly every year since the inception of the United States Mint in 1794. The only U.S. coin that has been minted more consistently is the cent. A two year Type coin, the 1794 Flowing Hair half Dollar was the first year that Half Dollars were struck at the new US Mint.
The first delivery of 1794 half dollars took place in the final quarter of the year, with 5,300 pieces delivered by Henry Voigt, followed by an additional delivery of 18,164 coins early in 1795, all from 1794-dated dies. Two different dates are often given for the first delivery, either October 15, 1794 as claimed by Walter Breen, or December 1 as claimed by Hilt and others. The second delivery is recorded as February 4, 1795. Congress had specified that the silver coins should carry a design “emblematic of Liberty,” and Chief Engraver Robert Scot had implemented this mandate with a right-facing portrait of a youthful female figure whose hair flowed freely behind her-hence the descriptive term “Flowing Hair.”
It’s said the flowing hair was meant to signify freedom. LIBERTY appears above the portrait, with the date below and fifteen stars along the sides, denoting the number of states in the Union at that time. The coin’s reverse depicts a small, spread-winged eagle perched upon a rock and surrounded by laurel branches. Along the border, encircling this, is the motto UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The half dollar’s edge bears the inscription FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR, with decorations between the words.
The Mint produced 23,464 half dollars dated 1794 and 299,680 dated 1795. It replaced the obverse in 1796 with the Draped Bust portrait of Liberty, making the Flowing Hair version a two-year type coin. Some 1795 half dollars have a re-cut date, but these are not unduly elusive. Some 1795 pieces have three leaves under each of the eagle’s wings, instead of the normal two, and these are scarce. No proofs are known for this series, which is widely collected by type.
There are 10 Overton varieties for the 1794 date and a total of 32 varieties for the 1795.
Information Courtesy of NGC
Designer: Robert Scot
Diameter: 32.5 millimeters
Silver - 89.2%
Copper - 10.8%
Weight: 208 grains (13.5 grams)
Edge: Lettered - FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR (various ornaments between words)
Mint mark: None (all dates of this type were struck at Philadelphia)