Odd Denomination U.S. Coins

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope that it brings you everything that you need.

Let’s start off the New Year by discussing “Odd Denomination U.S. Coins,” beginning with Half Cents. We will also discuss 2-Cent Pieces, 3-Cent Pieces, 20-Cent Pieces, $3 Gold, and $4 Gold in the next several blog posts.

Half Cents began in 1793 and ran through 1857 with 5 different designs or types.


The first type is the ‘Liberty Cap, Head Facing Left,’ this design belongs to the small class of one-year-only types, meaning that it was only produced for one year in 1793. The design for this type was inspired by Augustin Dupre’s Libertas Americana medal and the dies are often credited to Joseph Wright, who also made the dies for the related large cent, but were most likely done by Henry Voigt. Most of these coins are in AG to F condition, XF to AU are rare and uncirculated ones are very rare.


The second type is the ‘Liberty Cap, Head Facing Right,’ which ran from 1794 to 1797. The 1794’s had a larger head than the 1795-1797’s did. As a general type, this issue is scarce but available. Again, most are in the lower grades but some in VF to XF have appeared in the market.

No Half Cents were produced in 1798 and 1799.


The third type is the ‘Draped Bust’ which ran from 1800 to 1808 with none being made in 1801. By the turn of the century the Draped Bust design was already familiar to Americans, from its use on cents and silver coins. As a type, these half-cents are available in any grades desired, up to, and including, uncirculated. There are many different die varieties for this type of half cent, totaling 19 different coins. One of my favorites is the 1804 ‘Spiked Chin.’


All of the types from 1793 through 1808 have the fraction of 1/200 on the reverse, some of them have stem and some of them don’t.


The fourth type is the ‘Classic Head’ which ran from 1809 to 1836, and none were done from 1812 to 1824, 1827, and 1830. As a type this issue is easily enough found, although 1811 is scarce and 1831 and 1836 are rare. There are 17 different varieties in this type with the 1831 being only a proof issue.

No half cents were made in 1837, 1838, and 1839. They did however make a half cent token in 1837, which is talked about below.


The fifth type is the ‘Braided Hair’ which ran from 1840 to 1857. The Braided Hair half cent debuted a year after the same design was introduced on copper cents. There was little commercial demand for tis denomination, so only proofs were struck from 1840 to 1848 and in 1852. In 1849 both proofs and circulation strikes were made. Ultimately the half cent was discontinued by the Act of February 21, 1857. After that point the coins were rapidly withdrawn from circulation, and by 1860 virtually all had disappeared from commerce. You can find most of the circulation strikes in XF or better relatively easy.


No half cents were made in 1837 because of the great need for small change; however, a large number of tokens similar in size were issued privately by businessmen who needed them in commerce. They did make large cents in 1837 as well as the token.

Brian Dresback,

Manager, Christopher’s Rare Coins