Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the half dime had a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper.
The obverse design depicts an idealized form of Lady Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she held a pole surmounted by a liberty cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom. Liberty's right hand rests on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY. The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. Surrounding the design were Seven stars are to the left and six to the right (13 stars were representative of the original 13 states of the Union). Later in 1860, these stars were replaced with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The reverse design features a wreath tied with a bow around the words "HALF DIME" and the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircling the overall design. Beginning in 1860, the reverse design was modified to remove the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and changed the wreath to a wreath of American agricultural products (corn & wheat). A mint mark for New Orleans (O) or San Francisco (S) is located at the bottom of the design below the bow. Coins minted at the Philadelphia mint carried no mint marks.
Though only one type coin is available for the series, there are quite a few of major varieties one can pursue to expand a collection.
- Variety 1 1837 & 1838-O No Stars & No Drapery Obverse
- Variety 2 1838-1840 With Stars & No Drapery
- Variety 3 1840-1853 Stars & Drapery, weight 1.34 grams
- Variety 4 1853-1855 Arrows at Date, weight 1.24 grams
- Variety 5 1856-1859 Stars & Drapery, weight 1.24 grams
- Variety 6 1860-1873 Legend on Obverse
|No Stars or Drapery||With Stars No Drapery||with Stars & Drapery||Arrows at Date||Legend on Obv|
General Market Notes
With 34 years of coin production (and no extremely rare specimens) examples are available to collectors of all types.
For those on a small budget examples in a grade of Very Good to Fine should be no problem.
For a low cost sleeper look no further than the 1871-S issue. With a mintage of only 161,000 and in the grades from Good to Extra Fine the prices carry a small premium over more common years. For other years that may be potential sleepers look for the 1849-O, 1853 no arrows, 1863-S, 1864-S, 1865-S, 1866-S, and 1867-S.
For the investor, the key to the series is the 1867 issue while the semi-keys are: 1839-O, 1846, 1853-O, 1863, 1864, 1865, and 1866.