Draped Bust Half Dime: 1796-1805


Quick Coinage Facts

Years Minted: 1796-1805
Number of Types: 2
Mints: Philadelphia
Composition: 0.8924 silver, 0.1076 copper
Diameter: 16.5 mm
Weight: 1.35 grams
Total Mintage: approx. 179,027
Edge: reeded


Designed by Robert Scot, the half dime had a composition of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper.
The obverse design depicts an idealized head of Liberty facing right, with flowing hair secured by a ribbon and the inscription LIBERTY appearing above the bust surrounded by 15 stars (13 stars from 1800 on).

The 15 stars were representative of the number of states in the Union during that time and in 1797, a fifteen-star variety was struck, and later a sixteenth star (eight right, eight left) was added after Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. Mint director Elias Boudinot, realized that they couldn't go on adding stars so the last variety of 1797 had only thirteen stars (seven right, six left) which became the standard representation of the original founding states of the union.

From 1796 to 1797 the reverse design features a delicate or "small" eagle perched on a cloud, within an open wreath and the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (Type 1 Small Eagle).

From 1800 to 1805 the reverse was redesigned and features the Heraldic Eagle with arrows in one claw, an olive branch in the other and a banner in it's beak with the motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM". Above the eagle design are 13 stars with an arc of clouds above the stars and the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" (Type 2 Heraldic Eagle).

Typically, U.S. coins feature some type of denomination notation but there are none on this coin indicating it's value of 5 cents. Also, there are no mint marks as the Philadelphia mint was the only mint during that time period so there were was no need.


General Market Notes

Few coins have survived over the years and have thus created a rarity among collectors today but not an impossible feat to obtain a low grade specimen of the Type 2 designs but the Type 1 designs will prove more difficult both financially and availability.

It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen but a certified coin as there are quite a few counterfeits produced over the years.

If you have a limited budget then even a low grade (AG or G) specimen will be out of your reach. One avenue a collector can pursue is to obtain a replica coin.

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