Designed by John Reich and later re-designed by Christian Gobrecht in 1836, the half dollar had a composition of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper while 1836 to 1839 issues were 90% silver and 10% copper.
The obverse design depicts an idealized head of Liberty facing left, her hair covered by a cloth cap with a band inscribed LIBERTY. Her neckline is draped with a gown, secured with a brooch at the shoulder. Seven stars are to the left and six to the right (13 stars were representative of the original 13 states of the Union). For the 1838 & 1839 issues, a mint mark for the New Orleans Mint (O) can be found. Coins minted at the Philadelphia mint carried no mint marks.
The reverse design features an eagle with a shield on its breast, perched on a branch and holding arrows, with E PLURIBUS UNUM on a scroll above, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the outer periphery and 50 C. located just below the eagles claws.
The edge of the coin is lettered with the inscription FIFTY CENTS OR A HALF DOLLAR with decorations between the words from 1807 to 1813. In addition to decorations between words, some 1809 issues had experimental edge designs with "xxxx" between words or bars "IIIII" between words. From 1814 to 1831 the edge was modified by adding a star between DOLLAR and FIFTY. From 1832 to 1836 the edge was modified by adding vertical lines between words.
During 1836, Christian Gobrecht modified Reich's design and changed the composition of the coin giving us two type coins for the series:
Type 1 Capped Bust Lettered Edge - 1807 to 1836
Type 2 Capped Bust Reeded Edge - 1836 to 1839
Type 2 coins removed the traditional coin lettering in favor of a reeded edge. The obverse design was modified slightly while the reverse removed the scroll with the words E PLURIBUS UNUM. Additional design modifications included the 1836 to 1837 issues with the denomination 50 CENTS below the eagles claws and 1838 to 1839 issues with the denomination HALF DOL. below the eagles claws
General Market Notes
The Capped Bust is readily available to most collectors and typically can be found in the collector grades of G to VF and are affordable for most collectors. Higher grades of XF to BU are more difficult to locate and their price premium is reflective of that.
For collectors on a small limited budget you will probably want to limit yourself to a grade of Good to Very Good.
Excluding errors and over-dates, the only key to the series is the 1836 Type 2 issue with a mintage of only 1200 coins.