The initial composition for the Capped Bust Half Dollars was 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. These coins had a standard weight of 13.48 grams and diameter of 32.5 mm. From 1807 to 1814, edge lettering included the words FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR. For part of 1814 through 1831, a single star was added as separation after the word DOLLAR. From 1832 to 1836, a vertical line was used instead.
The composition of the series changed with the adoption of more modern machinery at the Mint. Starting in late 1836, coins were struck in 90% silver and 10% copper with a reeded edge. These coins had a slightly reduced weight of 13.36 grams and smaller diameter of 30 mm.
Due to the heavy use of dies, many coins of the series will look worn-out. The stars on the obverse are often weakly struck, together with the scroll on the reverse. The combination of a weak strike and subdued luster can often be mistaken for circulation wear, which can make grading the series difficult.