The smallest U.S. Coin denomination was the copper half cent, first struck in July 1793. Equal to 1/200th of a dollar, the half
cent was far more useful than Americans believe today. One important reason for striking this coin was because the Spanish milled
dollar or Piece of Eight could be broken into eight pieces (fractional currency) thus, one bit was worth 12½ cents. Spanish
coins were very familiar to Americans and served as the basis for the U.S. silver dollar coin issued in 1794. Since the Spanish
fractional one real or bit was equal to 12½ cents in decimal coinage, a half cent was necessary for making "honest change".
Although half cents were issued for more than 60 years, they remained America's unwanted coins. This small denomination may have
suffered from identification with the poorest classes: They were supposed to be its biggest users. The coin proved to be of little
use, circulated grudgingly if at all, and were often kept in storage at the Mint waiting for infrequent orders from the nation's
banks. Many remained in storage at the Mint waiting for orders. After 64 years, the coins were discontinued.
★★★★★ Liberty Facing Left Half Cent ★★★★★
The Libertas Americana medal that inspired the 1793 half cent was designed by French medalist Augustin Dupre as a celebration of
American victories in the Revolutionary War. Dupre envisioned the spirit of Liberty as a young woman with streaming locks of hair
flowing in the wind of freedom and a pole supporting the pileus or ancient cap of liberty behind her head. Franklin believed this
design would enhance American-French relations, and to a extent he was correct.
But the original design lasted only one year. Some believe the reason for the change was inspired by the continued violence of
the French Revolution which caused much concern in America. The Reign of Terror continued, and some 40,000 royalists were executed,
many by guillotine.
Liberty Cap Facing Left Half Cent Specs.
Designer:Undetermined. Possibly Joseph Wright or Adam Eckfeldt Content: 100% copper Weight: 6.74 grams Diameter: 22 millimeters Edge:Lettered "Two hundred for a dollar" Mint Marks: None (all Philadelphia)
Liberty Cap Facing Left Half Cent Mintage
Type 1 Mintage
Liberty Capped (Facing Left) Half Cent Grading
Select a grade image for comparison to your coin.
Type 2 & 3 Liberty Capped Half Cent
In 1794, Chief Engraver Robert Scot modified the earlier French inspired design by enlarging the bust of Liberty and having her
face right rather than left, also, Scot increased the size of the Phrygian cap on Liberty's pole. On the reverse, the wreath was
similar, but without the sprays of berries. While the series has only two major design types (facing left and facing right) it
includes numerous varieties. One of the better known varieties is the "punctuated" date of 1795. It is actually an accident by the
engraver resulting with a date that looks like "1,795".
Liberty Cap half cents possess great appeal for both novice and advanced numismatists. Today they enjoy strong demand from date,
die variety and type collectors.
Click to Enlarge
Type 2 Facing Right / Large Head
Click to Enlarge
Type 3 Facing Right / Small head
Example of 1795 Half Cent with (1,795)
During the four years Liberty Cap half cents were struck, a total of 359,529 pieces were produced. If there were any proofs
struck it is not known.
Early copper planchet varied greatly in quality. This results in considerable variation in the quality of each strike. Half Cent
characteristics vary from year to year. The coins from 1794 are nearly always deep brown or black. Those from 1795 are usually
light brown while half cents from 1796 are again dark brown or even black.
Porosity and planchet flaws are quite common. In 1797 planchet quality was above average for the series.
Liberty Cap Facing Right Half Cent Specifications
Designer 1794: Robert Scot Designer 1795-1797: John Smith Gardner Content: 100% Copper Diameter: 23.5 Millimeters
Liberty Cap Facing Right Half Cent Mintage
Lettered "Two hundred for a dollar"
1795 Lettered Edge
Lettered "Two hundred for a dollar" until Dec 27 1795, then plain.
Determined to eliminate the existing Flowing Hair designs, Mint Director Henry William
DeSaussure promptly ordered John Eckstein to make bas-relief models from Stuart's drawing.
In Eckstein's hands, a proportioned beauty emerged as a distinctly full figured matron.
The new Liberty appeared on the 1795 dollar and on minor silver coins and large cents in
1796. It was not placed on the half cents until 1800, with Liberty above and the date below.
The new coins of 1800 continued with the existing reverse already in use.
The "Draped Bust" image appears on numerous coins, and was used for several years. Many of these coins were used to make
jewelry, which may partially account for their scarcity.
Half Cents dated 1800 were the first to bear Scot's Draped Bust design. Liberty was based on a drawing by Gilbert Stuart of Mrs.
William Bingham. Stuart, perhaps the most famous American portrait painter of his time, finished his sketch in 1795.
Like the large cents, Draped Bust half cents also boasts many minor varieties. About 10% were struck on stock made from cut-down
large cents rolled out by the Mint's horse-powered mill, with the balance made in England.
War and political unrest caused many people to flee Europe. One of these immigrants was John Reich, a German engraver who paid
for his passage through indentured service. His talents came to the attention of Thomas Jefferson, who recommended his appointment
as assistant to Mint Engraver Robert Scot. Scot would have none of this. To Scot, an assistant was more of a competitor than a
helper. Nevertheless, Chief Coiner Henry Voigt redeemed Reich's servitude and gave him various jobs at the Mint, but he wasn't
allowed to design coins.
In 1807, Reich was given the job of Assistant Engraver. He was promptly assigned the task of redesigning all the coinage. The
unmistakable European influence may have seemed a bit foreign to Americans. In its day, Reich's Liberty was cruelly characterized
as the "artist's fat mistress." In 1817, after exactly a decade as Scot's assistant, he resigned, frustrated at never receiving a
raise or any respect from the Chief Engraver.
His design was reminiscent of classical art, but the "Classic Head" name was not attached until 1868 by Ebenezer Mason. The name
was inspired by the depiction of a fillet (Liberty's narrow headband) which dates back to ancient Greece.
The fillet seemed out of character because only young men wore the band in ancient times, as a prize in a athletic contests.
Classic Head Half Cent Specs.
Designer: John Reich Diameter: 23.5 mm Edge: Plain Metal Content: 100% copper Weight: 5.44 grams
It was the custom in this era to give visiting dignitaries gifts of proof sets of United States coins. In 1840, Mint Director
Patterson decided to include the half cent in the proof sets and instructed Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht to create dies for
Gobrecht used the same Braided Hair design he had used on his cent of 1839. The Gobrecht Braided Hair is a simple design that
gives dignity to this lowest coin denomination. A bust of Liberty, her hair braided into a bun in the back of her head, ringlets
of hair draping down below the base of the bust, faces left. She is wearing a tiara in which the word LIBERTY is inscribed.
Braided Hair half cents of 1840 to 1849 were made only as proofs and were used for diplomatic presentation sets or sold to
well-connected collectors. Orders for business strikes numbered only about 16,000 pieces per year, and the Mint met demand from
stocks on hand.
In 1849, with supplies dwindling, small orders for half cents were received by the Mint, and production of the coin began again.
Minting continued until 1857 when the denomination was finally discontinued.
Braided Hair Half Cent Specs.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht Diameter: 23 mm Edge: Plain Metal Content: 100% copper Weight: 5.44 grams