The 1776 – 1976 Bicentennial half dollar is valuable to coin collectors, primarily due to its historical reference and rarity. In this guide, I’ll provide a quick history of Bicentennial coinage and discuss the value and features of the 1776 – 1976 half dollar.
History of the 1776 – 1976 Bicentennial Half Dollar
Throughout history, the faces of famous figures and rulers have been printed on money. In ancient Greek and Roman times, the portrait of a ruler on a coin guaranteed its value. It also reminded the people of who the ruler was.
On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. Written during the American revolution, It announced the separation of 13 North-American colonies from Great Britain and stated that they were no longer under British rule.
Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, Americans have long considered July 4th as the birthday of the United States.
As part of the 200th anniversary in 1976, also known as the Bicentennial, the US treasury released 3 special versions of the circulating coins. These are known as the United States Bicentennial Coinage.
In 1976, the US treasury released commemorative versions of three circulating coins. These were Bicentennial designs to be printed on the Eisenhower dollar, Kennedy half-dollar, and the Washington quarter. The coinage was to be issued between 1975-76 and feature the dual date ‘1776-1976’ to celebrate 200 years of independence.
The 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar was the first of the three coins to be minted, in Minneapolis on July 7th, 1975. It features the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
1776-1976 Bicentennial Half Dollar Coin Specifications
|Year of Issue:||1975-1976|
|Coin Obverse Designer:||Gilroy Roberts|
|Coin Reverse Designer:||Seth G. Huntington|
|Quality||Business Strike, Proof|
The Rarity of the 1776 – 1976 Bicentennial Half Dollar
The bicentennial 1776-1976 half-dollars were minted in huge quantities between 1975-76 in three different states. The different mints are:
- The San Francisco Mint (S)
- The Denver Mint (D)
- The Philadelphia Mint (None)
Both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints produced Copper-Nickel clad Bicentennial half-dollar coins for commercial purposes. Over half a billion coins were struck (527,873,248), making these coins fairly common.
The San Francisco Mint struck coins exclusively for collectors. These were silver-clad (11,000,000), clad-proof (7,059,099), and silver clad-proof (4,000,000).
Whilst the coins struck in San Francisco are still fairly common, the uncirculated versions with rare features can be worth more to collectors.
Are 1776-1976 Bicentennial Half Dollar Coins Valuable?
Whilst over half a billion coins were struck during the two-year production period, certain coin features can increase the value.
Ordinary coins that were widely circulated are usually worth around $0.50, or the face value of the coin. High-quality, uncirculated coins with certain rare features can be worth thousands of dollars to collectors.
Certain features of a Bicentennial half dollar can influence its value. These include:
- The grade/ condition of the coin
- Coin composition
- Unusual/ error coins
The Grade/ Condition of the coin
The most important factor influencing the value of Bicentennial half dollars is the grade and condition. As the coins were produced in huge quantities during the two-year period, they weren’t made of the highest quality.
Common issues include fading, wear, contact marks, and dents. With this, the value of the Bicentennial half-dollar coins is bigger for higher quality coins.
The coins are graded on a scale of 1-70:
- 1 = Poor/ Not valuable
- 70 = Mint/ Valuable (MS)
Most 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coins are graded between MS-64-65. The highest quality coin graded to date is an MS-69.
A Lot of silver-clad 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coins were melted down during the 1970s and 1980s, making the ones left more rare and valuable.
Compared to the copper-nickel clad coins used in business circulation, the silver clad ones are more valuable.
Unusual/ Error coins
As with most collectibles, collectors are mainly interested in unusual things with features that make them rare and valuable.
Certain unusual varieties of the 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coin can be worth a lot more than face value:
- Double Die Obverse (Featured on the San Francisco mint coins – ‘WE TRUST’ is thicker than normal coins)
- Double Die Reverse (Also featured on the San Francisco mint – ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’ AND ‘SGH’ are both bolded.
Certain Bicentennial half-dollar coins containing errors were minted, which can also be more valuable:
- Double Struck (Struck twice by mistake)
- Broad Struck (Struck outside the retaining collar)
- Obverse Struck Through (Struck through foreign material)
- 1st Strike Full Brockage (Struck with the obverse of a previously struck half-dollar)
- Obverse Cap Die (Newly struck coin adheres to hammer die)
|1776 – 1976 Bicentennial Half Dollar (S Silver 50C MS) – 11,000,000 Minted|
|Coin Grade||Estimated Value||Auction Price|
-Table prices sourced from NGC Coin Explorer
- 1976 MS-69 silver-clad Bicentennial half-dollar (PGCS estimated value $7,000)
- 1976 MS-64 Denver Bicentennial half-dollar with 1st strike Full Brockage error (Sold for $4,465 at a Heritage Auction)
- 1976 MS-66 Denver Bicentennial half-dollar with Obverse Die Cap error (Sold for $3,737 at auction)
- 1976 MS-67+ Philadelphia Bicentennial half-dollar (PGCS estimated value $3,000)
Features of a 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar
A 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coin can be identified according to the following features:
- Coin design
- Coin composition
- Coin quality
- Coin Dimensions & weight
Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, the US treasury changed half dollars to his face to commemorate the late president.
On the Obverse (head) side, the 1776-1976 Bicentennial coins feature a portrait of Kennedy. The phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ is separated by his neck. At the bottom of the coin is the double date ‘1776-1976’ with the ‘1’ placed directly under the ‘G’ in ‘GOD’. Around the top of the coin is the word ‘LIBERTY’. The initials ‘GR’ of the Obverse side designer, Gilroy Roberts is above the ‘WE’ in the phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’.
On the Reverse (tail) side, 1776-1976 Bicentennial coins feature the Independence hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Around the bottom of the coin is ‘HALF DOLLAR’, with 13 stars to symbolize the 13 separate colonies. At the top of the coin is the caption ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’. The phrases ‘200 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE’ and ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’ occupy each side of the Independence Hall, which has ‘INDEPENDENCE HALL’ printed underneath. The initials ‘SGH’ of the designer Seth G. Huntington is on the right side of the hall.
A 1776-1976 Bicentennial coin’s composition differs depending on where it was made. Different mints used copper, nickel, and silver to produce the coins depending on the coins’ purpose.
Coins minted in Denver and Philadelphia were made of 75% copper/ 25% nickel and were intended for commercial use. Coins made in San Francisco were made for collectors. The uncirculated versions were made of 60% copper/ 40% silver. The circulated proof versions included a mix of both coins produced in Denver and Philadelphia and the uncirculated silver-clad coins produced in-house/.
Production of the 1776-1976 Bicentennial coins was rushed over a two-year period. This meant less care was taken when they were struck, leading to a poor quality finish.
Common defects on circulated versions include dullness, scratching, and dents.
Coin Dimensions & Weight
The weight of a 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar depends on what its made of:
- 75% Copper/ 25% Nickel = 11.34 grams
- 60% Copper/ 40 % Silver = 11.50 grams
The diameter of a Bicentennial half-dollar is the same as regular half-dollar coins – 30.6 mm.
Each 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coin will differ slightly according to where it was minted. Coins minted in San Francisco will have an ‘S’. Coins minted in Denver will have a ‘D’. Conversely, coins minted in Philadelphia will have no mintmark present.
Each mintmark will be situated on the right side of Kennedy’s bust line.
How much is a 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar worth?
Standard 1776-1976 circulated half dollars are worth $0.50, or their face value. Uncirculated collector coins are usually worth more, but this depends on the condition, with the table above giving a good idea of estimated coin values and sale prices.
Unusual coins containing thicker writing or error coins that have been struck differently can be worth considerably more among collectors. The coin’s value depends on its rarity and condition.
Are Kennedy half-dollars and 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollars the same thing?
No, they are not. The 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollars are special coin versions designed to commemorate the declaration of independence. Following a design competition, the winning design (The Independence Hall) was printed onto the Kennedy Dollars between 1975-76.
How was the Reverse 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar design decided?
The US treasury held a design competition that was open to all American citizens. Out of 884 entries, 3 designs were chosen to be printed onto the dollar, half-dollar, and quarter.
The winning half-dollar design by Seth G. Huntington features The Independence Hall, and was printed onto all the commemorative coins.
How can you tell if a 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar is silver?
An easy way to check the composition of your Bicentennial half-dollar is by looking at the minting date and the mint mark.
Summary – 1776-1976 Bicentennial Half-dollars
The 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coin continues to be valuable amongst collectors due to its historical significance and rarity. Whilst most standard commercial-use coins are worth $0.50 (face value), rarer uncirculated coins featuring unusual elements or errors can fetch 3 or 4 figures at auction.
A 1776-1976 Bicentennial half-dollar coin is easy to distinguish from Kennedy half dollars by examining the reverse (tail) design, which features the double 1776-1976 date and the Independence hall.