Half Dimes - Chapter ImageOverview of Half Dimes

  • Half Dimes - Obverse Image
  • Half Dimes - Reverse Image

Half Dimes: Design Types

The first half dimes, dated 1794 and of the Flowing Hair type, were not actually struck until 1795. In that year additional half dimes with the 1795 date were made. In 1796 and 1797 the short-lived Draped Bust obverse combined with Small Eagle reverse was used, after which none were struck until 1801. From that year through 1805, excepting 1804, the Draped Bust obverse was used in combination with the Heraldic Eagle reverse. Then followed a long span of years without any coinage. In 1829 the laying of the cornerstone for the second Philadelphia Mint precipitated a new issue, the Capped Bust design, some examples of which were produced for the ceremony. Production was resumed for circulation, and half dimes of this motif were made through 1837. In that year the Liberty Seated motif, by Christian Gobrecht, was introduced, to be continued without interruption through 1873, although there were a number of design modifications and changes during that span.

Assembling a set of the different half-dime types is a challenge for the collector. The 1794 and 1795 Flowing Hair half dimes are fairly scarce at all levels and are quite rare in choice Mint State. Then come the Draped Bust obverse, Small Eagle reverse half dimes of 1796 and 1797. In the late 1960s, researcher Jim Ruddy found that of the various silver types (including the more famous 1796–1797 half dollars), half dimes of this type were the hardest to complete a photographic set of, from the lowest grades to the highest.

Draped Bust obverse, Heraldic Eagle reverse half dimes of the 1800–1805 years are scarce in all grades, more so than generally realized. In Mint State they are very rare, although on occasion some dated 1800 turn up (not often for the others). Finding a sharply struck example is next to impossible, and a collector may have to give up on this aspect and settle for one that has some weakness in areas.

Capped Bust half dimes and the several variations of Liberty Seated half dimes will pose no problem at all, and with some small amount of patience a collector will be able to find a sharply struck example in nearly any grade desired.

Recommended Reading

  • Fivaz, Bill, and Stanton, J.T. The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties (5th ed., vol. II), Atlanta, GA, 2009.
  • Blythe, Al. The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dimes, Virginia Beach, VA, 1992.
  • Breen, Walter. United States Half Dimes: A Supplement, New York, 1958.
  • Logan, Russell, and McCloskey, John. Federal Half Dimes, 1792–1837, Manchester, MI, 1998.
  • Newlin, Harold P. The Early Half-Dimes of the United States, Philadelphia, 1883 (reprinted 1933).
  • Valentine, D.W. The United States Half Dimes, New York, 1931 (reprinted 1975).
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