Early Half Dimes are silver five cent US coins also referred to as a half disme (pronounced deem). They were first made in 1792.
This was the year before the first United States Mint actually opened for business. They were official US coins, however.
It is believed that they were struckStriking
John Harper was a Philadelphia saw maker who had connections to the Mint.
Were These Coins Made From Silverware?
It is rumored that President George Washington was so eager for the United States to have its own coins that these early pattern coins were made from his own silverware.
Why Weren't They Called Nickels?
It may seem strange to you that they are called half dimes instead of nickels, but the term nickel is a slang term for coins that are made of nickel.
The first five cent nickel coin was made in 1866. It was the Shield Nickel. However, other coins had been called nickels or Nicks before this, but they were not five cent coins. They were just given that slang name because the metal they were made of contained nickel. These are the Flying Eagle Cent, the Indian Head Cent, and the Three Cent Nickel.
The US Mint Struck Silver Half Dimes From 1794 Through 1873.
All design types of the Early Half Dime were minted at the Philadelphia Mint as it was the only United States Mint at the time. Therefore, these coins have no mintmark.
The Seated Liberty half dime was minted at New Orleans and San Francisco as well as Philadelphia, beginning in 1838 for New Orleans and 1863 for San Francisco.
There are several different design types of early half dimes. You will find them described below:
Early Half Dime Flowing Hair Pattern - 1792
There is much discussion among collectors as to whether these coins should be considered patternPattern
All of these 1792 coins are considered rare and valuable as only 200-250 are known to still exist today. They are one of the United States most historical coins.
The 1792 early half dime pattern issue is also known as the Martha Washington half disme. Rumor has it that Martha Washington may have been the model for this coin.
Early Half Dime Flowing Hair Design - 1794-1795
The Flowing Hair half dime holds an important place in United States history as being the first official silver coin produced at the Philadelphia Mint.
All early half dimes with the flowing hair design are considered to be rare.
The Flowing Hair design was not widely accepted. This may be one reason for its short life span. The eagle was criticized as being too 'scrawny' and Lady Liberty was considered to be less than ladylike with her 'fright wig'.
Draped Bust Half Dime (Small Eagle Reverse) - 1796-1797
The 1796 half dime has 15 stars surrounding Lady Liberty on the obverse (front) of the coin - eight stars on the left and seven on the right. These stars represented each of the fifteen states of the nation, including the new states of Vermont and Kentucky.
This fifteen-star variety continued into part of 1797. Later that year a sixteenth star was added to represent Tennessee after it was admitted to the Union.
Realizing that they could not continue to add stars for each new state added to the union, the number of stars were reduced to thirteen for the last design variety of the year. These stars (seven on the right and six on the left) represent the original thirteen states.
Because of low mintage numbers, these coins are rare and hard to find. They are the most scarce design of the half dime, other than the 1792 Flowing Hair.
The low mintage numbers was due to having to close the mint during the summer and fall some years due to outbreaks of yellow fever, especially bad during the years 1797-1804. Several employees of the Philadelphia Mint were lost to yellow fever including Joseph Whitehead, assayer, and Joseph Wright, engraver in 1793. Mint Treasurer, Dr. Nicholas Way was also lost to the disease in 1797.
Draped Bust Half Dime (Heraldic Eagle Reverse) - 1800-1805
Beginning in 1800, the eagle on the reverse side of the half dime was revised to the Heraldic Eagle. It was patterned after the Great Seat of the United States and was a huge improvement over the 'scrawny' eagle depicted in earlier designs.
Except for the 1802, these are usually weakly struck coins.
The 1802 coin is a key dateKey Date
There is an interesting coin in this variety to take note of. It was issued in 1800 and has a defective 'R' in LIBERTY. 16,000 1800 LIBERKY half dimes were made.
No half dimes were made between 1805 and 1829.
Capped Bust Half Dime - 1829-1837
Production of the half dime was resumed in 1829 after more than twenty years. The reason for the large gap in production is not known, but it could possibly be that there was a demand for a coin that was larger than a cent but smaller than a dime.
At the time, two cent, three cent and nickel coins had not yet been made. These would not appear until the 1850s and 60s.
These were the first half dimes to note the denomination on the coin. It was denoted as 5 C. on the reverse of the coin. This brought about the coin being referred to as a half dime or five cent coin instead of the half disme.
These coins would be a good choice to collect as a type setType
Seated Liberty Half Dime - 1837-1873
This is another series that would be good for the beginner or budget minded person. There is one exception however. That is the 1870S. Only one of these coins is known to exist.
There are 4 varietiesVariety
If you are thinking of purchasing half dimes for your collection, be aware that this series of coins has known counterfeits. I recommend that you purchase only certified coinsCertified Coin
For some great deals on U.S. Bust Half Dimes and other half dimes, as well as Coin Supplies visit my friends at Jake's Marketplace, Inc. They have a very comprehensive selection to choose from and give great discounts!
If You Can't Find What You Are Looking For....
Search This Site!
Eva Sue Duke - R-3147094
Return to Coin Collecting Guide for Beginners Home
Search This Site
Copyright© 2008-2014 coin-collecting-guide-for-beginners.com