Cutting your collection in half: a 50-cent coin primer

Canada offers multiple options for denomination
By , Coin World
Published : 12/23/15
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Editor's note: This is the first part in a series about collecting 50-cent coins (and their equivalents) by Jeff Starck that appears in the January 2016 monthly issue of Coin World

One of the long-standing, historically active areas of world coin collecting is the pursuit of world crowns.

Crown coins are those coins that are roughly equivalent in size to the British crown coin that was issued (sporadically) from 1551 to 1937. 

But we’re here to give some love to the 50-cent coin, the crown coin’s smaller sibling. Dozens of nations have issued 50-cent coins or equivalents denominated in centavos, centimes, senitis and more. 

The humble half dollars of the 20th and 21st centuries offer an array of beautiful and significant designs giving collectors a global  goal for a new collection.

To find the closest place to start, just look north of the United States, toward Canada.

Canadian 50-cent coins

The half dollar may seem like the quintessential American denomination, but like the dollar itself, its roots are in the Spanish colonial coinage that influenced much of the world.

When the British outpost now known as Canada began growing in the mid-1800s, its proximity to the United States of America explains why Canadians would prefer a decimal currency like that in use in the United States instead of the pounds, shillings and pence system of their motherland.

So, a 50-cent coin was a natural creation, facilitating cross-border trade. 

The earliest Canadian 50-cent coins appeared in 1870, a few years after Confederation pulled together several of the colonies into one unified Canadian nation (others, like Newfoundland, would join later).

The denomination was long a repository of monarchs and flora, until a redesign in 1937 coincided with the ascension of George V to the throne. Since that time, the nation’s coat of arms has found an almost constant home on the half dollar.

The most iconic Canadian 50-cent coin is probably the 1967 Howling Wolf design that was part of a suite of circulation coin designs selected in a national contest to commemorate the Confederation Centennial.

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