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Confederate Half Dollar

The Confederate half dollar has an interesting history. It was coined in 1861, then a new die (engraved stamp) was designed but only four coins were struck. In 1879, 500 of the 1861 coins were used in a restrike project. The reverse side was shaved and struck with the new Confederate design created in 1861. Read on for the details of this unusual history and the current value of the re-struck coins.

Confederate Half Dollar

About the Confederate Half Dollar

The Confederate States of America began in February of 1861, with seven southern states seceding from the Union. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. By May of that year, four others had joined them: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The U.S. Mint in New Orleans minted 330,000 1861-O half dollars in January of that year before Louisiana seceded from the Union. Louisiana seceded on January 26th, 1861, and the U.S. Mint in New Orleans, with its supply of $5 million worth of gold and silver was seized by the Louisiana militia five days later. The militia forced the U.S. Mint workers to strike silver half dollars and 20 dollar gold coins. During this time, 1,240,000 half dollars were struck.

So now, the 1861-O half dollars have been coined under the control of the United States government and the State of Louisiana. On February 28, 1861, the Mint was officially turned over to the Confederate government and 962,633 half dollars were struck. All of the coins minted up to this point were identical, without any changes being made by the Mint. Total mintage under all three governments, was 2,532,633.

On April, the Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederacy, Christopher Memminger, ordered a new design be created for the Confederate half dollar. The design, which was chosen from several submitted, had an image of the Goddess of Liberty encircled by 13 stars with the date 1861 on the bottom front side of the coin. On the back was a shield with seven stars to represent the current states in the Confederacy with a liberty cap above it and stalks of cotton and sugar cane encircling it. The words “Confederate States of America” were inscribed around the outside with the words “Half Dol.” at the bottom.

After the die (engraved stamp) was engraved by A. H. M. Peterson and prepared by Conrad Schmidt, four pieces were struck. Due to the difficulty of obtaining bullion, Sec. Memminger closed the Confederate States Mint on April 30, 1861. One of the four coins was sent to CSA President Jefferson Davis, another went to Professor Biddle at the University of Louisiana, one was sent to Dr. E. Ames in New Orleans, and the last was kept by B.F. Taylor, the chief coiner of the Mint. The Mint stayed out of operation until 1879.

Restrikes of the Half Dollar

In 1879, B.F. Taylor sold the die that made the reverse side of the four half dollars to E. Mason, Jr., of Philadelphia. He sold the die to J. Walter Scott and Company, a New York coin dealer. Scott bought 500 of the U.S. Seated Liberty 1861 half dollars (the ones minted in January) and planned to restrike the back side with the Confederate designed die. He tried striking over the original reverse (back side) but part of the old coin could still be seen. So he had the U.S. design shaved off of the reverse and struck the remaining coins.

These confederate coins are called the Scott Restrike half dollars. The value of the confederate half dollar would range from between $2250 to $10,000 depending on the condition of the coin. There have been some more recent copies made with white metal or bronze and these have no collector value.

Some copies have been made of oxidized silver, which makes them darker, and these can sell for between $20 and $25. The way to tell the difference between modern and original restrikes is by the weight. The originals weighed approximately 12.44 grams with the coins that were shaved before striking being a bit less.