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1914 Barber half not for the impatient

 

The 1914 Barber half dollar is certainly a better date. The issue today is just how much better it is than other Barber half dollars and how much better it might seem to be in the future.

The starting point is its mintage of 124,610. That total is unusual even for Barber half dollars. There were almost 20 Barber half dollars that had mintages of less than 1 million. For a coin produced primarily in the past century, that is an awfully high total. It makes the Barber half dollar one of the toughest sets of the past century, so the fact that the 1914 has the lowest mintage of any half dollar produced in the past century is not something to be overlooked.

Being the best date in a set in terms of having the lowest mintage does not by definition mean a date is the most expensive in the set, and that is seen in the case of the 1914. While a better date, it is not the most expensive Barber half dollar in any grade.
Today a mintage even remotely similar to 124,610 would cause a major stampede. Back in 1914, that was not the case. In fact, the 1913 Barber half dollar had a very similar total of 188,627 as did the 1915 with its 138,450 mintage. Under those circumstances, the 1914’s low total would not have attracted much attention.

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Another factor is that there were not many half dollar collectors at the time. That means that the 1914, along with many other better date Barber half dollars, was not likely to have been saved in significant numbers. That has implications for Mint State prices.

The fact that 1914 was the next-to-last year of the Barber half dollar has implications as well. The 1892-O, for example, also is a better date and by the time the 1914 was issued, the 1892-O had been in circulation a couple of decades. By the time there was some serious interest in obtaining better Barber half dollar dates from circulation, it would be at least the 1940s. We know because in the New York Subway Hoard, which was begun in the 1940s, there were 24 complete sets of Barber half dollars, so the dates in every case were still circulating.

The extra wear accumulated in years of circulation before the 1914 was produced would result in the 1914 being somewhat more available than some of the earlier dates that, in some cases, had been lost or become so heavily worn that they were retired from circulation and destroyed.

At $155 in G-4, the 1914 is still at a fairly high price. It is below a few other dates but still ranks high on the list of better Barber half dollars, even in lower circulated grades.

In Mint State, there is probably no readily available half dollar date. The denomination was high and not saved by many with even fewer considering saving a roll or more than one example. That has taken a real toll on supplies, and only a lack of demand is keeping prices where they are today.

The 1914 is again not the key with a price of $1,400 in MS-60 and $11,500 in MS-65. Those levels are far below the key 1904-S and some other better dates but for a later date and one from Philadelphia, its prices are very strong.

You get a better idea just how tough the 1914 is in Mint State when you check the grading services. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded just eight as MS-65 or better and a total of 67 as Mint State. Professional Coin Grading Service has also graded eight examples MS-65 or better with a total of 95 called Mint State.

If you are impatient to see rapidly rising prices, the 1914 may not be for you. It should go up in price but the demand for Barber half dollars at present is not high. If that demand were to increase, it would not be at all surprising to see significant price increases. But until it does, the 1914 is likely to post only modest gains in most grades.

Whatever grade you select, the 1914 remains an interesting coin. The low mintage alone makes it a good deal.

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