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UNITED STATES HALF CENTS
(1793-1857)

The United States minted Half Cents intermittently between 1793 and 1857.  While this unusual denomination might seem useless today, it was an important part of our monetary system back when working wages were $1 per 10-hour day.

The images at right show the five major design types that appeared on U.S. Half Cents, plus a Half Cent token issued privately in 1837.

The Liberty Cap Half Cent came in two different versions: the Head Left (issued in 1793 only) and the Head Right (issued from 1794 to 1797).  The 1793 Half Cent is a scarce date and was one of the very first coins issued by the U.S. Mint.  The rarest date in the Liberty Cap series is the 1796.

No Half Cents were issued in 1799.

The Draped Bust design appeared from 1800 to 1808, but no Half Cents were struck in 1801.  The rarest date of this design type is the 1802, all of which were struck on cut-down Large Cents.

The Capped Bust design appeared on Half Cents beginning in 1809 and ran through 1836.  No Half Cents were issued between 1812 and 1824, mostly because demand for the denomination was low and the Mint had difficulty obtaining planchets.  In 1825, Half Cent coinage resumed, with breaks in 1827 and 1829.  Rare dates of this type include 1831 and 1836, both issued only as Proofs.

No Half Cents were issued by the U.S. government between 1837 and 1839, but a privately issued token appeared in 1837 to fill the void.  This token claimed to be of the same weight and value as a U.S. Half Cent and used images and styles similar to those on actual U.S. coins of the period.

The final Half Cent design type, the Braided Hair, first appeared in 1840 and ran through 1857.  Rare dates of this type include the Proof-only issues of 1840-1848 and 1852.

In 1857, the Half Cent denomination was discontinued forever.

The Half Cent series is full of interesting and rare die varieties.  Highlights include:
1796 No Pole 
1797 Lettered Edge 
1797 Gripped Edge 
1802 Reverse of 1800 
1804 "Spiked Chin" 
1804 Stemless Wrvveath 
1805 Stemless Wreath 
1806 Stemless Wreath 
1808/7 
1809/6 
1828 12 Stars

To learn more about U.S. Half Cents, we recommend the following books:

"American Half Cents - Second Edition" by Roger S. Cohen, Jr. (out-of-print)

"Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents 1793-1857" by Walter Breen (purchase a copy by clicking on the title)

1793 Half Cent Obverse 1793 Half Cent Obverse  1793 Half Cent Reverse 1793 Half Cent Reverse
Liberty Cap Half Cent - Head Left (1793 only)
Images courtesy of Jim McGuigan

  
Liberty Cap Half Cent - Head Right (1794-1797)
Images courtesy of Hanks and Associates

Draped Bust Half Cent Obverse   Draped Bust Half Cent Reverse
Draped Bust Half Cent (1800-1808)

Images courtesy of  Superior Stamp & Coin

1833 Half Cent Obverse   1833 Half Cent Reverse
Capped Bust Half Cent (1809-1836)
Images courtesy of  Cybercoins

Obverse of 1837 Half Cent Token   Reverse of 1837 Half Cent Token
1837 Half Cent Token
Images courtesy of Heritage Numismatic Auctions

1857 Half Cent Obverse   1857 Half Cent Reverse
Braided Hair Half Cent (1840-1857)

Images courtesy of Cybercoins

 
 

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