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coinfodder's Blog

29 Sep 2020

The History Of Coinage Types in the United States- The Half Cent

Coins-United States | coinfodder

Well, to put things in perspective, I think I have become older, taller, and wider on my birthday today. To celebrate, I am pushing a new set of blog posts to compliment the 50 States series I am doing. So great. Presenting the history of the Half Cent from coinfodder, who is one year older, taller, and wider.



At the birth of the nation came the need for money. And with the need for money came the need for small change. So, in the Coinage Act of 1792, the half cent was first authorized for production. The coinage act created the basic coins that would be created for the United States. The half cent was included on this, and it would be worth $0.005 (what could you buy for that much? A crumble of paper?). It would contain 5 1/2 pennyweights of copper, or 8.55 grams of copper. In that act, the "director of the mint" (Rittenhouse) would purchase a "sum" of copper, not exceeding 150 tons.
After the act was signed, it would take a while for the press to be shipped from England and be set up in Philly.



Finally, in 1793, the first half cents rolled off of the press. The first design, designed by Henry Voigt, featured Liberty, with liberty cap and pole, facing to the left. These were some of the first coins to leave the mint. The rim was not reeded and was lettered "TWO HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR", meaning two hundred of them would be needed to have a dollar. Yeah. Imagine walking through airport security with two hundred things of copper in your pants.



The diameter, with all mint products, was rather erratic, with some coins being 21.2 cm to some being 24 cm. The early mint production quality was a mess. Only 35,334 were created, with an unknown number meeting the Melter. Today, hundred remain of one of the first coins minted by the United States, and is rare in all grades.



After the first liberty coins were created, a new design came out. This time, liberty, cap, and pole faced to the right. Designed by Robert Scot, one of the earlier engravers at the US Mint, the coin features a liberty with cap and pole. Production was more standardized, and they created more coins. In 1794, the new design rolled off of the press for the first time. From 1795, the head was made smaller, and production continued until 1797, when coinage of copper was temporarily suspended.



In 1800, after a hiatus of three years (presumably to get more copper; most of the copper for coinage in America at the time came from Britain), copper half cents hit the press again. This time, the design was the draped bust design, created and engraved by Robert Scot, transforming a portrait of a society lady by Gilbert Stuart into liberty. This was the same design as on the Large Cent, half dime, dime, quarter, half, dollar, and in 2007, Thomas Jefferson's Liberty. The design was created because of congress's general dissatisfaction with the earlier liberty design.



In 2007, the design would be recycled to create Thomas Jefferson's Liberty for the first spouse gold coin program.



After 1809, the design of the half cent was scrapped YET AGAIN, as a "Classic Head Design" took over the motif of the copper coins. This motif was done by sculptor John Reich, and the design would last the longest of any design created by the US Mint to date, running from 1809 to its replacement in 1836. In 1834, chief engraver William Kneass would modify the design for the Quarter Eagle and the Half Eagle.



In the late 1830's and early 1840's, most, if not all coins would be redone over. The man who singlehandedly redesigned all of America's coins for years to come was Christian Gobrecht. He used Robert Scot's design and tweaked it to be on the half cent. It is known as the Coronet, or Matron head and Braided hair. This would be the last design for the half cent, as in 1857 the new copper-nickel Flying Eagle Small Cent would debut, and the half cent was almost a footnote in American money. In 2010, the design would be on Buchanan's Liberty, for he was the only bachelor president.



Today, the half cent series remain popular among collectors of the Early American Copper coins. The designs are well regarded as early classics, and are considered some of the greatest coins in American History.



See ya'll!






Comments

Mike B

Level 7

You know I go back and read comments. Sometimes blogs. I just sent the first coin authorized by the U.S. Governing . Made in 1787 the Fugio cent. Benjamin Franklin had allot to do with the wording. Check your red book. It was not the half cent! Great blog and comments

user_62358

Level 4

Happy birthday. Nice article. I have one old half-cent - not so good condition. I do have some two-cent pieces.

CentSearcher

Level 4

Happy anniversary of birth! While I do not collect half cents I still need to get one for my type set. Great blog!

Mike B

Level 7

We must be related Happy birthday!! Today's is mine also.!! I also would like to see some of the odd ball designs be brought back. Great blog I enjoyed it. Time for cake. Many happy more birthdays!! Enjoy your day and mine. Mike

Kepi

Level 6

Beautiful examples and interesting blog! Some of those old designs are really great! ; )

TheNumisMaster

Level 4

Yo, happy birthday mate! I absolutely loved this blog... even MORE than normal. As so of you know, my favorite coin to collect is the US cent. I love the history of it, starting in 1792... Well done, have yourself a great day! Cheers, NumisMaster

Golfer

Level 5

Happy Birthday coinfodder ! Don't have a half cent, but sure would like one. Off to search for one maybe. Thanks for the very interesting post on half cent history. Forgot all about them.

Mokie

Level 5

I only have one example for an Odd Denomination Capital Holder but I have a soft spot in my heart for all the odd and no longer made denominations. Wouldn't it be cool if the mint did a 250th anniversary type set with all those odd denominations in the old designs but dated 2026. One can dream. Thanks for the great blog.

Longstrider

Level 6

Happy Birthday. I love all these "odd" denomination of our past. My first Details coin was a 41 Gold piece. Some people here told me I could have gotten a nice regular one for the same price. First, they had no idea what I paid and No way was what I paid even close to a non problem coin. But this is your blog. Nice info. I enjoyed the read and learned. Sounds like you gave me a good present. Thanks Pal.

Stumpy

Level 4

Happy Birthday! Thanks for the blog.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I really enjoy all the odd denominations, lots of good information here. Sources so we can read more if we wish please?

Although the designs aren't what some consider to be "pretty" I still love them. They pushed the economy forward and boosted the economic activity of the beginning United States. It's hard to imagine half a cent being able to do anything in a modern world, but it was no amount to trifle with back then.

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