Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Half Dimes (1794 - 1873)


The Half Dime was one of the first denominations introduced in the United States. After the Act of April 2, 1972 that authorized the issuance of silver 5 cents, the first Half Dimes were struck only in 1794 even thought the half dimes were in the making process since 1792. The first half dime introduced for circulating was the Flowing Hair (Bust) Half Dime, designed by Robert Scot. This design was used on all silver denominations of the time in an attempt to standardize their appearance. The concept of almost identical designs for coins with identical metal composition was used all through 19th century on circulation American coins. The 1802 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle half dime is one of the classic rarities in the U.S. coinage series and only very few pieces are known to exist. Proof coins began to be struck in 1860 at the Philadelphia Mint. Half dimes from 1863 to 1870 are all very rare to find.

The Flowing Hair Half Dime (1794 - 1795) displayed on the obverse a portrait of Liberty with flowing hair and facing right, surrounded by 15 stars. On the reverse, an eagle was perched on a cloud, surrounded by an olive branch and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It seemed that this first design raised a lot of criticism from the people, who thought the representation of Liberty was horrible and the eagle looked more like a malnourished turkey. In 1796, this design was replaced by Scot's Draped Bust Half Dime, a type that had a Small Eagle Reverse in 1796 and 1797, similar to the eagle on the previous Bust design, and a Heraldic Eagle Reverse from 1800 to 1805. The Heraldic Eagle design displayed the Great Seal of the United States on the reverse, known also to collectors as the Large Eagle. In 1805, the production of Half Dimes ceased until 1829. The denomination appears for the first time on half dimes in 1829 on the reverse, when the Mint issued the Capped Bust half dime, a design that lasted until 1837. This time, Liberty was facing left and was surrounded by 13 stars instead of 15. The reverse had a majestic eagle holding an olive branch in its right claw and arrows in its left claw. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM was introduced too, placed on a ribbon above the eagle.

In 1837, a new design was introduced for the half dime - the Seated Liberty designed by Christian Gobrecht. A design that appeared first on silver dollars in 1836, it displayed Miss Liberty sitting on a rock and with a shield in front of her. In her right hand, Liberty was holding a scroll - or others would say a ribbon - with LIBERTY on it. With her left hand, Liberty was holding a pole with a liberty cap on top. The reoccurring theme of Liberty surrounded by 13 stars is present as well. For the reverse, Gobrecht put the denomination HALF DIME in the middle, surrounded by an olive branch with a bow. This design underwent numerous changes along the years, many of them recorded as Varieties. The first Variety with No Stars on obverse was minted in 1837-1838. In 1838 through 1853, the Variety 2 with Stars on obverse was minted for circulation - 13 stars were added and surrounded Liberty. Starting 1838, Seated Liberty half dimes were minted at the New Orleans mint also, showing an O for the mintmark located above the bow on the reverse. The 1838-O Seated Half Dime is more easily available in low grades and far more rare in higher grades.

Within Variety 2, the half dimes were minted some with No Drapery from Elbow (1837-1840) and others With Drapery from Elbow (1840 on). In 1840, although initially guided to make some improvements in the Seated Liberty design, Robert Ball Hughes made some big changes on Liberty - he fattened her arms and body, enlarged her head, flattened her bosom, changed her decollete, chipped away much of the rock she sat on, moved her shield to an upright position, and changed her clothing, also adding extra drapery. This design appeared first on dollars, quarters and dimes. Even though these "improvements" were supposed to improve the striking quality and design, it seems that it actually weakened the strike in all denominations from 1840 till 1858. "Full Head" coins are very rare or unknown of for this period.

After the gold rush in California and the rise in price of silver, the third Variety for Half Dimes emerged with Arrows at the Date (1853-1855) to denote the reduction of weight under the laws of the Act of February, 1853. Arrows at date were also placed on dimes, quarters and halves during that period. Variety 3 half dimes were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco mints. Since all half dimes from this period were given to circulation, there are very few in high grade. In 1860, the Seated Liberty design was changed again when mint designer James Longacre switched the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from the reverse to the obverse, and placed a "Cereal Wreath" on the reverse, around the denomination.

The Executive Coin Company is one of the top coin dealers in United States who offers a wide variety of Half Dimes in different grades and condition. Our selection includes early date half dimes like the 1796 Draped Bust Half dime and other early 1800s half dimes in high grades. We also offer half dime in different varieties like the No Stars Liberty Seated half dime and Seated half dimes With Stars, as well as Half Dimes with No Drapery, Arrows at Date, Obverse Stars and Legend on the obverse. All coins we display are expertly photographed with great care and accuracy to help you make the best choice for your unique collection! Check out our online selection below.