I. R. Bama's Blog

03 Jan 2022

My Retirement Presents Part III: 1803 Half Dollar

Coins-United States | I. R. Bama

It has been a long time since part II of this series and here is the third and last. I saved the best for last! And it's a nice one too. A nice winter snowstorm is giving me some time off and I will take advantage of that.

My third coin is the 1803 (Large 3) Draped Bust half dollar graded by NGC at XF40. It is my oldest American coin. Last year before I retired, I started collecting Capped Bust Halfs and then I saw this one at a local dealer. It was priced a fair amount below wholesale, making it something I could not resist. I even thought about it for a week before I bought it and I am surprised it did not go before I made up my mind. Imagine holding a coin that was minted when Thomas Jefferson was president!

The Draped Bust half with Heraldic Reverse was minted from 1801-1807, though none were minted in 1804 even though the dies for that year were produced. The coin was designed by Robert Scot. It weighs 13.48 grams. It was composed of 0.8924 per cent silver and 0.1076 per cent copper. The diameter was approximately 32.5mm. Remember, planchets were not uniform in those days. It has edge lettering that reads FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR with decorations between the words. Adjustment marks are seen occasionally to make the weight of the coin uniform. Earlier years were more sharply struck. (Source: Redbook Deluxe 1st Edition)

This coin is an O 103 variety. Al C. Overton (1906-1972) was a numismatic scholar who was particularly enamored with Bust half dollars and studied their varieties. He produced two volumes of work: Early Half Bust Dollars 1794-1836, published in 1967 and in 1970. He also authored Supplement to Early Bust Half Dollars that included a reworked numbering system. (Sources: Librarything.com andwww.busthalfnutclub.org/bust-half-literature.html)

O103 refers to an Overton first die obverse, third reverse die marriage. It seems that while the obverse die was very durable, the reverse die, not so much and several were used in production.

Coin photo: NGC



Level 3

My goodness! That is a ridiculously awesome coin.


Level 5

🤩 It is beautiful! One day when I can afford it, I’m getting a great bust half dollar, hopefully XF-40 or higher. I’m aiming for AU-50.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

The capped busts are more affordable than the draped busts, my friend


Level 4

That is a wonderful coin and deserves a lot of attention. As group, these are gems. They are not just super in mint, but they wear nicely to make handsome coins. The strike on this is is truly awesome - with excellent wing tips and clouds This is my 1806 http://www.mrbrklyn.com/coins/busts/1806_o.png http://www.mrbrklyn.com/coins/busts/1806_r.png

Long Beard

Level 5

Oh my. In my honest opinion, the Bust series look their best in an EF to low AU grade. I'd pay mint state prices for one with the right patina. Thanks for sharing the beauty you're caring for!


Level 5

Awesome coin. Great addition to a collection.


Level 5

Great coin. Thanks for the information!

Nice coin!


Level 6

She's a beauty! I really enjoyed your blog! Someday I need to add one of these to my collection! ; )


Level 6

Great retirement coin. Nice blog


Level 6

Now this is a blog. I learned from you today. Beautiful coin. I have always wanted one but still don't have any. Still time. Now that I learned of all the varieties or vams? I want one even more. Thanks.


Level 7

That is a wonderful coin. I think that set was very dynamic. This pick up was well worth the wait. We should all look that good at the age of that coin. It's one of my favorites. Well done. You show us nothing is impossible. Thanks for the information and great blog. Mike.

AC coin$

Level 6

Woooow ! Great coin 1803 Half Dollar the Drapped Bust great start 2022 nice blog , Thanks for sharing

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