Half Cents, 1793-1857

Half Cents, 1793-1857

The U.S. Half-Cent, issued between 1793 and 1857, was the smallest denomination to be coined by the federal government. These small coins were originally intended to replace the foreign copper coins and privately made tokens then circulating freely in most parts of the country. Unfortunately, this concept took decades to adopt, especially since Half Cents were without legal tender status (which changed over 100 years later in the Coinage Act of July 23, 1965!), thereby allowing merchants and bankers to refuse to accept them at face value. Half-Cents were also unpopular with the general populace, who found them to be cumbersome coins that quickly became dark or corroded. Half-Cents were produced in five different design types:

1793 Liberty Cap facing Left Type
1794-1797 Liberty Cap Facing Right Type
1800-1808 Draped Bust Type
1809-1836 Classic Head Type
1840-1857 Braided Hair Type

These coins were engraved by such notables as Adam Eckfeldt (1793), Robert Scot (1794, 1800-1808), John Gardner (1795-1797), John Reich (1809-1829), William Kneass (1831-1836) and Christian Gobrecht (1840-1857). Half-Cent production was suspended in 1811 due to the trade embargo with Britain during the War of 1812, the exhausted supply of copper planchets and the increasing overall public rejection. Production resumed in 1825 but again stopped in 1829. By the 1840’s, public sentiment and the increasing value of copper were forcing the Mint to find a replacement for the Half Cent. Finally, in 1857, after a mere total of 35,180 Half-Cents were minted, production was discontinued.

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