Half Cent Types (1793-1857)
The smallest denomination issued by the United States was the Half Cent, made between 1793 and 1857 inclusive. Today, one might view the Half Cent as a useless denomination, but in 1793, when laborers toiled from sunup to sundown for $1 a day, half a cent represented a fairly significant amount of money. Compared to the Large Cent, the mintages of the Half Cent were far smaller for any given year. Many dates have mintages below 100,000 coins, particularly in the Braided Hair series from 1840-1857.
- Liberty Cap Half Cent, Facing Left (1793 only)
- Liberty Cap Half Cent - Facing Right, Large Head (1794 only)
- Liberty Cap Half Cent - Facing Right, Small Head (1795-1797)
- Draped Bust Half Cent (1800-1808)
- Classic Head Half Cent (1809-1836)
- Braided Hair Half Cent (1840-1857)
An Overview of Half Cents
by Q. David Bowers
The United States half cent was authorized by the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, which sanctioned all of the first federal denominations and established the United States Mint. Though authorization for all denominations came in 1792, the half cent was among the first to be produced in quantity for circulation, as security bonds had to be posted for producing the larger silver and gold denominations (except in the case of the half disme, which was produced in 1792 under official auspices, but in saw maker John Harper's cellar, as the Mint was not yet ready). Except for the copper half cents and cents of 1793, the other authorized denominations were not minted until 1794 or 1795 .
Even though it had a slight head start, the half cent was one of the shortest lived U.S. denominations, running only until February 1857, when it was discontinued. In the half cent series, six main design types are recognized. However, as will be seen, it is possible to make further divisions into sub-types, as with the 1795-1797 half cents that come with lettered edges or plain edges.
Historical Background Among half cents of the early years there are many interesting varieties to intrigue the numismatist. Certain issues of 1795 and 1797 were struck on planchets cut from Talbot, Allum & Lee tokens which were acquired by the Mint during its continuing search for copper, a problem which plagued the early coinage operations. These tokens had been struck in England, and brought into the United States in 1794 and 1795 by Talbot, Allum & Lee, New York City merchants in the import trade. Sometimes planchets for half cents were also cut from misstruck large cents. In fact, it is believed that all 1802-dated half cents were struck from spoiled large cents.