RARE HALF DIMES
When the United States coinage system began over 225 years ago, the half dime was one of the original denominations to be coined in America. Authorized by Congress on April 2, 1792, the Half Dime Coin was originally known as the Half Disme. The 1792 Half Dime was designed by Thomas Birch and is generally believed to be a pattern or provisional piece called the Washington Half Disme.
The first regular issue Half Dime was introduced in 1794 and is known as the Flowing Hair Half Dime. A Draped Bust coin replaced this design in 1796 and was issued with two different reverses. When this series ended in 1805, the Half Dime mysteriously disappeared for more than two decades. It wasn’t until 1892 when the denomination resurfaced with a new look, commonly referred to as the Capped Bust. Lasting until 1837, the Capped Bust Half Dime was followed by the Liberty Seated design, which was struck for the final time in 1873.
There are five Rare Half Dimes to consider including the two different Draped Bust reverses. As the Half Dime was replaced by the five cents paper note and later by the Nickel coin, no more pieces were minted after the Liberty Seated series ended in 1873.
If you would like further advice or are interested in purchasing Rare Half Dimes, please feel free to contact Capital Gold Group. For now, we’ll leave you with some more information about the most sought-after Rare Half Dimes.
Flowing Hair Half Dime (1794–1795)
Designed by Robert Scot, the Flowing Hair Half Dime was the first regular issue Half Dime to be struck by the Philadelphia Mint in 1794. The same flowing hair portrait of Liberty was used on the both the Half Dollar and Dollar coins from the same period. It was a short-lived series with only two dates, and the denomination is not displayed on the coins.
On the obverse of the Flowing Hair Half Dime is the head of Lady Liberty, facing right. Her head is slightly tilted and she is pictured with long flowing hair. Fifteen stars encircle the portrait, with the word LIBERTY above and the date below. The reverse depicts an eagle with outstretched wings, standing on a branch. A wreath surrounds the right-facing bird, as does the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
These Rare Half Dimes dated either 1794 or 1795 were not produced in large numbers. The 1794 coin has the lowest mintage of the two dates at just 7,765 but both Flowing Hair Half Dime issues are extremely rare in all grades and conditions.
Draped Bust, Small Eagle Reverse (1796–1797)
The Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dime was another two-year type coin, also designed by Robert Scot. Having said that, Scot based his obverse Liberty image on a sketch created by artist Gilbert Stuart who completed over 1,000 portraits of various important people including America’s first 6 presidents.
Scot’s obverse design features a right-facing bust of Liberty with hair bound by a ribbon. Liberty’s bust is partially visible and draped, hence the Draped Bust name. She is surrounded by either thirteen, fifteen or sixteen stars, as well as the engraving LIBERTY above and the date below. The reverse features a small eagle inside a wreath and encircled by the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Like the Flowing Hair Half Dime, no denomination is found on the coin.
The obverse initially displayed only fifteen stars to represent the states in the Union but featured sixteen when Tennessee was admitted. The design was changed in 1797 to show only thirteen stars to symbolize the original thirteen states. All Rare Half Dimes of this design are scarce, especially specimens in uncirculated condition and higher circulated grades.
Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse (1800–1805)
In 1797, production of Draped Bust Half Dimes came to an abrupt stop and did not resume until 1800. When the coin returned, the obverse remained the same but the reverse had been given a makeover. The Small Eagle reverse was replaced with the more realistic looking Heraldic Eagle, which was taken from the Great Seal of the United States.
The Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle reverse depicts an eagle with a shield on its breast and holding a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM in its beak. An olive branch and a bundle of arrows can be seen in the bird’s claws. Above the eagle’s head is an arc of clouds, as well as a group of stars. The engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the whole image. Again, no denomination appears on the reverse of this Rare Half Dime.
Although the series lasted a few years more than the previous two, all Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse Half Dimes are scarce. The 1802 coin is the rarest date; however, uncirculated pieces and circulated examples in excellent condition are especially difficult to locate no matter the date.
Capped Bust (1892–1837)
Half Dime production was suspended after 1805, with no more pieces appearing until 1892. When the denomination returned, the nation was aware of the Capped Bust design because it had already been used on the Half Dollar, Quarter Dollar and Dime. The Capped Bust artwork was created by William Kneass and based on the work of John Reich. As the Half Dime was much smaller than the other coins featuring the Kneass’s work, the design appears a little different on the Capped Bust Half Dime.
On the obverse of the Capped Bust Half Dime is a bust of Lady Liberty, facing left. Her long hair is curled and she is wearing a Phrygian cap inscribed LIBERTY. The gown worn by Liberty has been secured by a brooch, which can be seen just below a flowing curl of hair. There are seven stars in front of Liberty’s face and six behind her head, with the date displayed below the image.
The reverse features a perched eagle with widespread wings and a shield on its breast. An olive branch and a cluster of arrows are being held in the bird’s talons. The eagle is situated under a scroll inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM and encircled by the text UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Interestingly, the denomination appears on a Half Dime coin for the first time as 5 C and can be found just below the eagle.
There are some die varieties in the Capped Bust Half Dime series, some of which are elusive. Uncirculated examples are particularly rare as well. We should mention that Liberty Seated Half Dimes were also struck in 1837, the final year of the Capped Bust Half Dime series.
Liberty Seated (1837–1873)
Liberty Seated Half Dimes were the last Half Dimes ever struck and numerous modifications were made to the design throughout the series. As a result, there are lots of subtypes including major and minor varieties, all of which are highly sought by collectors. The Liberty Seated Half Dime was created by Christian Gobrecht and features a design based on the image of Britannia used on the coinage of Great Britain.
The original obverse depicts a left-facing Lady Liberty seated on a rock, wearing a gown that covers her feet. Her left hand is holding a pole topped with a cap and her right hand is resting on a shield inscribed LIBERTY. The date is displayed below. On the original reverse is a wreath, which encircles the HALF DIME denomination and is surrounded by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
In 1838, the first major design change occurred when thirteen stars were added around the obverse image. The coin displayed these stars until 1859. Then, in 1853, arrows were placed on each side of the date on the obverse to signify a reduction in the Half Dime’s weight. The arrows were later removed from the coin in 1856. The obverse was changed yet again in 1860 when UNITED STATES OF AMERICA replaced the stars and was removed from the reverse. No longer featuring the text, the reverse displayed an enlarged wreath. This was the final major design change; however, there are many more Liberty Seated Half Dime varieties.
Over the course of the series, these Rare Half Dimes were struck at the mints of Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (S) and New Orleans (O). The 1870-S is the rarest date, with only one lone example known to exist. The 1863 to 1867 issues minted at Philadelphia are also very rare.
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