United States, Fifty Cents, Proof, 1838 O

United States Mint, New Orleans. Obverse: Capped bust of Liberty facing left, stars surrounding, date and mint mark (O, for New Orleans) below. Reverse: Eagle, denomination (HALF DOL.). In 1835, Congress amended American coining laws. These laws made numismatic history. Three branches of the United States Mint were established. Two were in the southern Piedmont region, at Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dahlonega, Georgia. These facilities were intended for the coinage of gold.
The third branch was set up at New Orleans, Louisiana, hundreds of miles from any mining activity, but the major port of entry for gold and silver coinage shipped in from Mexico and points south. It is estimated that twenty 1838-dated half dollars were struck in proof, perhaps at the beginning of the following year. Numismatist and U.S. coin encyclopedist Walter Breen believed they were minted to test the coining capabilities of a new large press. But they also could have been intended as presentation pieces. We know of eleven survivors. We don't know what happened to the other nine.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
1838 O
U.S. Mint, New Orleans
Physical Description
silver (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .2 cm x 3 cm; 3/32 in x 1 3/16 in
place of issue
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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