When the light gets into your heart
In 1869 Charles E. Barber became chief engraver of the US Mint. At this time, Seated Liberty Half coinage was going strong. Like all engravers, however, Barber yearned to put his mark on US coinage.
His opportunity came in 1890. The Mint Act of 1890 act required that designs of US coins to change every 25 years. Because Seated coinage had already well exceeded its tenure, Barber got busy. The first step was to solicit designs--which resulted in about 300 proposals from sculptors and other artistic types. Barber rejected them all in favor of his own.
1910 Barber Half Dollar PCGS PR64 CAC ex Larry Shapiro
The obverse design returned to the Ms Liberty headshot tradition of the Flowing Hair, Draped Bust, and Capped Bust vintages. The right looking Liberty portrait drew heavily from the design of Liberty head coinage from the Second French Republic from 1848-1852. Thirteen stars (for the first time, six pointed stars) surround the obverse rim with IN GOD WE TRUST at the top, LIBERTY labeling the headband, and the date at the bottom.
The reverse featured a new rendition of the heraldic eagle that contained design elements from previous series. The spread winged eagle faces left, with talons clenching an olive branch and arrows. The eagle holds the E PLURIBUS UNUM banner with 13 five pointed stars above its head. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA circles the top while HALF DOLLAR circles the bottom.
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Weight: 12.5 g
Composition: silver .90; copper .10
Mintages regularly exceeded one million per year with most going into circulation. The design, which left many of the device high points exposed to friction, made circulated Barber halves subject to considerable wear. Many survivors today are 'slick' Barbers, meaning that much of the relief has been worn away with few design details remaining.
To me, the most interesting numismatic coins among Barber series are the proofs. Proofs were struck each year by the Philadelphia mint. Mintages are tiny in all years. For example, for the 1910 date shown above, a total of 551 proof pieces were struck--not graded, struck. Yet, for most years, prices of proofs rarely exceed prices for business strike examples of the same grade.
Because most surviving proof examples were carefully cared for by collectors, they are well preserved with many possessing very interesting colors from years spent in paper albums and envelopes. Proof Barber halves can be very pretty, and given the small mintages, pops, and prices, they seem to offer interesting value.