Prior to 1866, the five-cent coin was the half dime, a small silver piece. Unlike today, nickel was not in use for U.S. coins,
and did not appear until 1866. The half dime contained very close to five cents worth of silver, because Americans insisted that
coinage have high intrinsic value.
The Flowing Hair half dimes of 1794-95 was different than Birch's 1792 half dismes;
the spelling of "disme" would gradually evolve to "dime." The 1792 coins the spelling was (HALF DISME). All Flowing Hair half dimes
dated 1794 were struck in March of 1795. The 1794 half dime is a scarce coin in any grade. In mint state it is very rare.
Four different die varieties are known for the 1794 half dimes. Only one of these is relatively common. Ten different die
varieties exist for the 1795 half dime. Over 80% of all 1795 half dimes are from three of these varieties, and the rest are very
★★★★★ Flowing Hair Half Dime ★★★★★
The design for half dimes was changed in 1796. Robert Scot was instructed to create a new, uniform design for the current silver
denominations. The half dime, dime, quarter dollar and half dollar of 1796 all have a Draped Bust obverse which is coupled with the
Small Eagle reverse.
All Flowing Hair half dimes were struck at the first Philadelphia Mint (no true proofs are known). As one would expect, the
quality of strike for 1794 half dimes is generally poor even though some very sharp examples can be found. The United States Mint
had trouble striking this denomination of coins until the 1830s. There is no indication of this coin's value on either side.
Adjustment marks on the surfaces are caused by file marks on the planchet to correct the weight. Adjustment marks
are very common during this period and they do not significantly hurt the grade or the value of a coin.
Click to view an example of:
Flowing Hair Half Dime Specs. & Mintage
Designer: Robert Scot Content: 89.2% silver 10.8% copper Diameter: 16.5 millimeters Edge: Reeded Weight: 1.3 grams Mint Mark Location: None (all coins were minted in Philadelphia)
With the poor reception given the Flowing Hair half dime, Mint Director DeSaussure ordered a redesign of the coins. Seemingly
because of a lack of confidence in Scot, who designed the Flowing Hair coins, DeSaussure ask Gilbert Stuart for sketches of a new
Liberty head. Stuart's sketch was of a Mrs. William Bingham of Rhode Island. Since Vermont and Kentucky had joined the Union, the
1796 Half Dime had fifteen stars. Shortly thereafter, a sixteenth star was added when Tennessee joined the Union.
Director DeSaussure's successor, Elias Boudinot, understood that the practice of adding more stars needed to stop. The 1797 coin
had the stars reduced to 13 symbolic of the original 13 colonies that broke away from England.
Philadelphia was often plagued by yellow fever in the summer and fall, and between the years 1797 and 1804 it was particularly
bad. It even became necessary to shut down the Mint several times during the season. Engraver Joseph Wright and assayer Joseph
Whitehead both died of the fever in 1793 and the following year, Mint Treasurer Dr. Nicholas died. This explains why the mintage
was low some years, and very low in others.
Only a few varieties exist, and all are rare. Two notable varieties are, a broken B in LIBERTY which makes it appear to be
LIKERTY and an over date, 1796/1795
Click to view an example of:
Despite the convenience when making change, production remained limited. Many banks and the markets preferred the Mexican silver
half reales (worth approximately six cents) and their use remained wide spread. In 1805 the Mint ceased production of the half dime
and did not resume production until 1829 with the Capped Bust design.
The "Draped Bust" image appears on the following coins, and was used for the years listed. Many of these coins were used to
make jewelry, which may partially account for their scarcity.
No half dimes were struck in 1798 and 1799. The coin was again minted in 1800 with the same Draped Bust obverse, but with a new
heraldic eagle device from the Great Seal of the United States on the reverse.
Draped Bust Half Dime Specs. & Mintage
Type 1 Plain Eagle
Type 2 Large Eagle & Shield
Type 1 Plain Eagle Reverse Designer: Robert Scot Content: 89.2% silver 10.8% copper Diameter: 16.5 millimeters Edge: Reeded Weight: 1.3 grams Mint Mark: None (all coins were minted in Philadelphia)
Type 2 Large Eagle With Shield Reverse (1800-1805) Designer: Robert Scot
The half dime disappeared from Mint production and circulation after 1805. It is speculated that bankers preferred the Mexican
half-real coin, worth one-sixteenth of a dollar (0.0625) or 6 1/4 cents.
In 1829 the half dime finally reappeared with a very different look: It was slightly smaller in diameter but the weight remained
the same. The Draped Bust design was gone, it was replaced by a left-facing portrait of Liberty, her curly hair was tucked inside a
mobcap. This likeness is sometimes called the Turban Head, but most people call it the Capped Bust. The old Heraldic Eagle was
replaced by a naturalistic eagle with a shield superimposed on its breast.
The designs was not a new one. This basic design had appeared on some of the nation's larger silver coins as far back as
1807. The designs were fashioned by the German-born Mint engraver John Reich. It is the first half dime with a denomination on
it expressed as (5 c).
There are several interesting die varieties, however, only one of them (1837 with a small 5 C.) commands a larger
premium. The 5 C. appears in large and small varieties for the years 1835, 1836 and the 1837. The 1835 half dimes not only
comes with large and small dates, it has combinations of dates and denomination sizes.
Capped Bust Design Specs. & Mintage
Designer: William Kneass Content: 89.25% silver 10.75% copper Diameter: 15.5 millimeters Edge: Reeded Weight: 1.35 grams Mint Mark None (Philadelphia)
By 1837, the Mint's entering the modern era. Two factors allowed the transition to take place. First, there was a large amount
of silver and gold available for minting. Second, new steam powered coining presses were introduced using a close collar. These
state-of-the-art presses made striking coins faster and more efficient.
The new Mint Director Patterson had his own vision of the emblematic portraits of Liberty. Portraits, as they were used
on coinage up to that date was not part of his vision. Patterson admired the English rendition of Britannia on their copper
coins. Chief Engraver William Kneass with the help of artists Titian Peale and Thomas Sully made drawings using a similar concept.
By 1835 Christian Gobrecht, a talented engraver and medallist had unofficially worked for the Mint for over a decade. In the
summer of ’35 Gobrecht was appointed second engraver, he was immediately set to work on bringing Patterson’s ideas to
Liberty seated on a rock and holding a shield was designed in 1835 as a silver dollar patterns. The design was first used for
circulation on the half dime in 1837. It is the smallest in size and lowest in denomination of the six coins bearing the Seated
From an artistic standpoint this coin is one of the most uncluttered coins ever struck in the United States. There are two
distinct varieties known.
First there is a large date with the date curved, the 1 in the date has a tall peak.
The second variety has a small date in a straight line, the 1 in the date has a flat top.
The large date is more common than the small date, but surprisingly, there is usually no premium accorded to the small date.
The 1837 No Stars half dimes is more available in uncirculated grades than would be normally expected.
As a explanation for this, it has been suggested that many pieces were saved as first-year-of-issue souvenirs.
In 1838, and for that year only, No Stars half dimes were coined in New Orleans.
Type 1 Liberty Seated Design Specs. & Mintage
Obverse Designer: Thomas Sully Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht Diameter: 15.9 millimeters Weight: 1.3 grams Content: 90% silver 10% copper Edge: Reeded Mint Mark Location: Below "DIME" on the reverse
Type 2 Stars No Drapery & Type 3 Stars and Drapery
In 1838 thirteen stars were placed in a circle around Liberty. In the beginning, each star was hand punched into a older style
die. Collectors refer to the coins as the No Drapery variety. This is because the hand punched stars gave it a somewhat
different appearance, and the drapery at the elbow had not yet been added.
In 1840 Robert Ball Hughes modified the coin adding extra drapery at Liberty's left elbow.
The reason for the modification is unclear. Both mints made both kinds of coins
(with and without drapery) resulting in four different half dimes being minted in 1840.
One possible explanation for the four designs may be because of the cost of dies used to stamp coins. Using a die until it
was time to replace it seems like a frugal or thrifty method of operations.
Types 2 & 3 Liberty Seated Specs.
Liberty Seated Type 2 Obverse Designer: Thomas Sully (modified by Robert Ball Hughes) Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht Diameter: 15.9 millimeters Weight: 1.3 grams Content: 90% silver 10% copper Edge: Reeded Mint Mark Location: Below "DIME" on the reverse
Liberty Seated Type 3 Obverse Designer: Thomas Sully (modified by Robert Ball Hughes) Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Liberty Seated Half Dime Type 4 With Arrows at Date (1853-1855)
In 1853, (because the price of Gold fell sharply in relationship to silver) in order too combat the melting of silver half dimes
the amount of silver in each coin was slightly reduced. To make these reduced weight coins easily distinguished from older and
heavier coins, Chief Engraver James B. Longacre added arrowheads on both sides of the date.
The Stars obverse design, without arrows, returned in 1856, the weight remained the same, and continued until 1860, when the
Legend Obverse design debuted.
On the brink of a civil war, the Mint removed the thirteen stars from the obverse and replaced them with the Legend:
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Other changes can be found on the last half dime issue. Liberty‚s arm was reduced, the size of
the cap and the size of the head were both changed.
In addition to the above variations, the Seated Liberty half dime is a collectors dream. This is because of the many errors on
the dates, repunched and recut dates, over-dates, repunched Mint marks, and large, medium and small dates to name a few minor
In 1873 the 5 cent nickel brought an end to the seated liberty half dime and the half dime denomination. The 5 cent
nickel met with resounding public approval.
Type 4 & 5 Liberty Seated Specs.
Type 4 With Arrows at Date Specs. Obverse Designer: by Thomas Sully (modified by Robert Ball Hughes) Reverse Designer: by Christian Gobrecht Diameter: 15.9 millimeters Weight: 1.2 grams Content: 90% silver 10% copper Edge: Reeded Mint Mark Location: Below "DIME" on the reverse
Liberty Seated Type 5 Specs. Obverse Designer: Thomas Sully (modified by Robert Ball Hughes and James B. Longacre) Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre Diameter: 15.9 millimeters Weight: 1.2 grams Content: 90% silver 10% copper Edge: Reeded Mint Mark Location: Below "DIME" on the reverse except for: 1872 Within or below the wreath on the reverse 1873 which is below the wreath
The nickel five-cent piece was originally proposed to weigh 3.88 grams and be composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The House
Coinage Committee wanted the new coin‘s weight to be expressed in grams but would not publicly say so, and while four grams
was the next metric weight, this was passed over, and five grams was the weight used. But still unwilling to express the weight as
five grams, the enabling legislation required the coin weigh 77.16 grains (the English equivalent of five grams)!
As Chief Engraver it fell to James Longacre to design the new coin. Several patterns were created, the most interesting ones
featured profiles of Washington or Lincoln. Unfortunately, the issue of portraying actual persons on coinage was a matter for great
debate. In this round of debate, the opponents won. Unable to use Washington or Lincoln's portrait, Longacre modified a motif he
had used earlier on the two-cent coin. The modified design had a certain geometric balance, but it is artistically quite weak.
Initially, the reverse was controversial. The central device shows a large numeral 5 and is surrounded by thirteen stars with
thirteen sets of rays between the stars. Surprisingly, some citizens believed Southern sympathizers had infiltrated the Mint and
placed the Confederate Stars and Bars on the reverse. Despite objections, the rays were retained on the reverse the first
two years of issue. Early in 1867 the rays were eliminated. This was because Mint officials believed the rays prevented the coins
from striking completely.
Shield nickels were struck only at the Philadelphia Mint from 1866 until the design change in 1883. This short-lived series has
a surprising number of rarities. The two key issues are from 1877 and 1878, when only proofs were struck. Business strikes for the
years 1879 - 1881 were low mintage and command large premiums in all grades. There are two over dates, the 1879/8 an over dated proof
and the 1883/2.
In 1883 the Shield nickel was replaced by Charles Barber's new Greco-Roman Liberty head. However, the Shield nickel was
the first nickel five-cent piece. While the design was originally intended to be temporary, it has changed several times since
1866, but the basic 5-gram nickel has remained a mainstay of our coinage system.
Shield Nickel Design Specs. & Mintage
Type 1 With Rays
Type 2 Without Rays
Designer: James B. Longacre Content: 75% copper 25% nickel Diameter: 20.5 millimeters Edge: Plain Weight: 5 grams Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
In 1881 Loudon Snowden, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, believing that the nation’s three minor coins (the cent,
three-cent piece and five-cent piece) should be uniform in design and metallic composition directed Chief Engraver Charles E.
Barber to prepare suitable sketches for these denominations. All three were to feature a classical head of Liberty. Later that
year trial strikes were made of the three coins.
All three were simple in design, Liberty on the obverse and a Roman numeral (I, III or V) signifying one, three and five cents,
respectively inside a wreath. They were struck in copper-nickel, the same alloy used in the three-cent piece and the Shield nickel.
They quickly discovered that Congress was opposed to a change in composition for the bronze cent. Farther discovery determined that
the Treasury would not permit a design change for the three-cent piece. This left only the five-cent piece, and Snowden and Barber
began overhauling it.
The first V nickels had barely been released when a fundamental flaw in the design was discovered: The word CENTS
had been omitted from the design. The oversight soon created a crisis: The coins were being plating with gold and passed off as
five-dollar gold pieces. As brand new coins, which were virtually the same size as half eagles, they were unfamiliar to the public,
and they lacked a statement of value outside of the letter V (which, of course, could have been either five cents or five
Barber quickly corrected the flaw, this time he placed CENTS in large, bold letters below the V. Unfortunately, the Mint had
already struck nearly 5.5 million of the No CENTS nickels, and many had already been gold-plated and passed. Called
racketeer nickels, they are still found today in hoards and collections of old coins. They have little value as
collector's items, but many people find them appealing as a historical curiosities.
The 1885, 1886 and 1912 S are considered low mintage, but there are no great rarities. The 1912 S, at 238,000, is the only
coin with a mintage less than a million. The 1911 is the highest mintage with just over 39.5 million.
In 1913 the Indian Head/Buffalo type nickel went into production replacing the Liberty nickel. But that is not the end of the
story! Some years later the collecting world was stunned to discover that five 1913 examples had surfaced. They were apparently
secretly made by someone at the Philadelphia Mint. Despite their origins, they came to be accepted as highly prized collectibles.
Today, they rank among the most coveted and valuable of all U.S. coins.
Liberty Head Nickel Specs.
Designer: Charles E. Barber Diameter: 21.2 millimeters Metal content: Copper: 75% Nickel: 25% Weight: 5 grams Edge: Plain Mint Mark Location: Reverse below the button to the left of CENTS.
Even though Theodore Roosevelt was no longer in office, his desire to have more classical
designs on our coins was very much alive.
The Coinage Act of 1890 permitted a change in coin design after 25 years. Not about to pass up the opportunity Secretary of the
Treasury Franklin MacVeagh, MacVeagh, bypassing the competent but mediocre Barber, and began the process for a new design. James
Earle Fraser, a former assistant to Saint-Gaudens and a prolific artist created a truly unique design for the new coin. Unlike
earlier "Indian" designs, Fraser's design accurately portrays a male Native American on the obverse, and an American Bison on the
Fraser's design was beautiful, and for that reason was favored by Secretary MacVeagh. However, its allure seemed to escape
chief engraver Barber. The design remained unchanged over Barber's objections. On March 4, 1913, coins from the first bag to go
into circulation were presented to outgoing President Taft and 33 Indian chiefs at the ground breaking ceremonies for the National
Memorial to the North American Indian at Fort Wadsworth, New York.
As early as April, rapid wear of the words FIVE CENTS became evident on the coins reverse. The denomination FIVE CENTS was on a
raised mound. Barber finally had his opportunity to modify Fraser's design. These type 1 nickels were minted only during the first
few months of 1913.
Barber cut away the mound, creating an exergue into which the FIVE CENTS was set. Even though Barber had solved the reverse wear
problem, he kept going. He smoothed out much detail and granularity in both the Indian's portrait and the bison's hide. Because of
this, much of the artistic impact was lost. This resulted in the Type 2 Buffalo Nickel.
In 1916, Barber made additional minor modifications. Some experts consider this a third subtype,
but most type collectors only recognize the Type 1 and 2 coins as true varieties.
What really seems strange is with all his modifications, Barber never worked on the problem of the date wearing down too
Click to view: &
Indian Head Nickel Specs.
Type 1 Designer: James Earle Fraser Type 2 Designer: James Earle Fraser, modified by Charles E. Barber Diameter: 21.2 millimeters Metal content: Copper: 75% Nickel: 25% Weight: 5 grams Edge: Plain Mint Mark Location: Reverse below "FIVE CENTS"
When the Treasury Dept. decided to discontinue the Buffalo design on the nickel, a nationwide competition was announced. The
mint wanted the design to portray Thomas Jefferson on the Obverse and the reverse was to be his home Monticello.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many talents and a boundlessly curious nature. He achieved fame at home and internationally as a
architect (eg. Monticello), as a statesman, scientist and philosopher. Jefferson's lasting legacy has proved him to be one of the
truly great figures in American history.
Jefferson began his career as a public servant in 1769 by when he joined the Virginia House of Burgesses. With the start of the
American Revolution, he became a member of the Second Continental Congress where he became one of the principal authors of the
Declaration of Independence. He later returned to Virginia to serve as governor during the last part of the war, then he later
rejoined the Continental Congress in 1783 and 1784.
Once George Washington had been honored with a circulating coin in 1932, it seemed natural that Jefferson would be right behind him
in achieving such a recognition.
German-American sculptor Felix Schlag, out of 390 entries, won the competition and collected the $1,000. but his design was
modified by the mint and in September of 1938 production began! In spite of the popularity of coin collecting, there was little
interest in the new coin.
All three mints coined Jefferson Nickels from 1938 onward. With the exception of the silver nickels used in World War Two,
mint marks appeared to the right of Monticello through 1964. Use of mint marks were suspended because of a nationwide coin shortage,
and were restored in 1968. Since 1968, they have been placed beneath the date, to the right of Jefferson’s wig.
During World War II Nickel (the metal) was scarce and in great demand. The Jefferson nickel was changed to 56% copper, 35%
silver and 9% manganese during this critical period. To distinguish these coins from the original coins, the mint mark was place
above Monticello with a large letter. At the end of WWII use of the original alloy and the original mint marks were resumed.
In 2004 & 2005 there were four new designs. The new designs were to commemorate the Lewis and Clark expedition, who's official
task was, at the order of President Jefferson, to explore the newly acquired Louisiana purchase. Unofficially, they were to explore
all the way to the Pacific Ocean and thereby lay claim to that land in the name of the United States.
Jefferson Five Cent Westward Journey Coins Types 3, 4, 5 & 6
2004 Type 3
2004 Type 4
2005 Type 5
2005 Type 6
In 2004 the Obverse of the coins were left unchanged.
Norman E. Nemeth's adaptation of an Indian Peace Medal struck for Jefferson was the first new design.
A depiction by Mint sculptor-engraver Al Maletsky of a keelboat (like used by the Expedition).
In 2005 the image and legend were both changed. "LIBERTY" was traced from Jefferson's handwriting.
The reverse depicts an American bison observed by Lewis and Clark, and also recalling the Buffalo nickel.
This coin shows the coastline and the words Ocean in view! O! The Joy! from a journal entry by William Clark.
Click to view 2005 D Jefferson image example
2006 Jefferson Five Cent Type 7
Since 2006 another Franki design has been used for the obverse. This design depicts Jefferson from the front. The image is based
on an 1800 drawing by Rembrandt Peale and includes the word "Liberty" in Jefferson's script similar to if not exactly as it
appears when hand written in documents by Jefferson. Mint Director David Lebryk is quoted as saying, "The image of a forward-facing
Jefferson is a fitting tribute to his [Jefferson's] vision." The reverse beginning in 2006 was again Schlag's Monticello design,
but it was sharpened by Mint engravers.
As Schlag's obverse design, on which his initials were placed in 1966, is no longer used, his initials were placed on the reverse
to the right of Monticello