The Design of the Liberty Seated Half Dime
Liberty Seated Half Dimes (1837-1873)
The first year the Half Dime was minted was July 1792. The Silver that was used to make 1,500 pieces worth of 5 cent coins was actually supplied by George Washington or the secretary of state. The finished product that was called “dismes” was delivered to Jefferson the name of Dismes was eventually discontinued. The thought is that the New Mint stuck 500 extra coins and by the end of it the die showed some Microscopic rust. Most of the presented coins from that time are from that strike. Robert Scot came up with the Flowing Hair design for the half dimes, it was released and dated 1794 and 1795. The Draped Bust was dated 1796 and 1799.
The coin was resumed in 1800. This new Piece had the same obverse with the Flowing Hair design but the reverse had the Heraldic Eagle until 1805 then coinage stopped. It wasn't until July 4, 1829, that the half dime was recoined this time they went for the capped dime look. This new coin had a raised rim and closed collars which made it different from half dollars. After 1829 the capped design was used up until 1837. When the Seated Liberty was introduced. The Seated Liberty was used up until 1873.
The Design of the Liberty Seated Half Dime
The motif on seated half dimes was maybe by Christian Gobrecht this lasted from 1837 to the end of the series’ life in 1873. At the Philadelphia Mint the coin started production in 1837 and at the New Orleans Mint it started in 1838. The Liberty Seated Half Dime design is of Liberty seated on a rock with her left hand holding a liberty cap on a pole, on her right hand there is a shield with the inscription LIBERTY. You will see no draping on the elbow nor are there stars in the field. The date is placed at the bottom. The obverse was inspired by silver dollar design. On the reverse we have an open wreath that is tied with a ribbon that encloses the words HALF DIME while the words UNITED STATES surround the design. Out of Philadelphia there were 1,405,000 coins minted and out of New Orleans there were 70,000 made. Stars were later added to the design in 1838 and the Draping was added in 1840. Throughout the coins life it had small things changed on it constantly much of the similar changes that other seated liberty coins went through with stars and even arrow heads to signify a change in weight.
Edge Reed Counts on Liberty Seated Half Dimes
Gauge 1: 86 reeds
Gauge 2: 90 reeds
Gauge 3: 92 reeds
Gauge 4: 98 reeds
Gauge 5: 106 reeds
There were never any patterns made for the most part. In 1871 there were some examples made using the Princess motif. There was a good amount of proof strikes done out of copper and aluminum in 1863 to 1873 which were sometimes incorrectly called trial pieces. These pieces were requested from the Mint to actually be sold to collectors and are listed in United States Pattern coins which was written by J.Hewitt Judd. All of the coins are very rare.
1849 Half Dime Die Used for Patterns
In 1849 there was talk of making a $0.03 piece that would be made out of silver; this would be a new addition to the coinage line up and be between the sent in the halftime. It's interesting to note that the 1849 half dime die was used for patterns for what would become the three cent Piece.
Aspect of Striking
Coins for circulation were not as nicely stuck and had less care on the sharpness of their strike. Most of the earlier issues have a sharper strike to them for example ones with out-stars were fairly early in the series. Most of the time the weakness in strike is seen on the head and the stars.
Release and Distribution
Other than some proofs that were made for the preservation of the coin all other half dimes were made for circulation which lead to them mostly all being worn. As the same with all of the other silver coins that were in circulation at the time they were evenly hoarded by the public because of the civil war this took all the silver coins out of circulation by spring of 1861. Most of the coins were still being used on the west coast. It wasn't until April 20, 1876 that silver coins reemerged. They were very popular with the Chinese immigrants who would send the silver back home to their families. In 1873 the half dime was ended but still stayed in circulation in the west for decades after. After half dimes re-emerged into the market they were taken to the Treasury Department to be Melted down; this resulted in most of the surviving half dimes from the Philadelphia mint to be in high grade.
Proof Liberty Seated Half Dimes
From 1837 through 1873 proofs were being struck at the Philadelphia mint with some possible exceptions from the years 1851 and 1853. There were some coins without arrows in 1853 that had a Mirror like finishes; they've been called proofs but whether they were made to actually be proofs is still a debate. In 1853 There is close to 210 silver proof sets made. First official Silver Proof sets were made in 1859 and there are about 800 made. In 1860-1861 the interest in coins rose rapidly and introduced 1000 sets per year; it was record levels at the time. In the 1860s to purchase one would have to pay 3$ these coins were shunned by collectors. Because of this half of the coins were put into circulation for face value. At the time the only way to get one was to go to the mint and pay a high premium in gold coins for paper money. Today if you wanted to complete a collection of all 1858 to 1873 it can be done with relative ease.
Grading Liberty Seated Half Dimes
1844-O, Small O; V-2. graded MS-64: there will be some abrasion as well as contact marks. The most notable places are on the thighs, knees and bosom. There still is luster but might not be fully present. MS-63 has very few marks and any abrasions will be hard to find and would need magnification to see. MS-65 the coin will have no abrasion also no contact marks and if there is magnification would have to be used to see them. They will also have full luster unless they are from the Philadelphia mint. On the reverse the same comments as above will apply with the most notable places for abrasion being the top of the leaves on the ribbon.
1853, Arrows. Graded AU-50: There will be some light wear on the bosoms, knees, head, and thighs. AU-58 the luster will be extensive but incomplete and there will be friction on the field. On the reverse there will be wear on the top of the leaves. AU-58 will almost have full luster because of the way it is designed on the reverse.
1852-O. Graded EF-40: There will be more wear on especially on the head, bosom, knees, and thighs. There will be little to no luster left. On the reverse there will be more wear especially on the leaves as a whole also the ribbon bow knot will show a lot of wear. Although wear is present the leaves will still show detail.
1846. Graded VF-35: More wear will be present and should be able to be seen. Most series will detail is now missing except for places with low relief like the shield. On the reverse there is more wear, the top of the leaves are flat with the rest of the leaves just being worn.
1840-O. Graded F-15:liberty is well worn with little detail present. LIBERTY is weak but fully readable. On the reverse more detail on the leaves is gone the rim is bold but worn.
1846. Graded VG-10: liberty is well worn with little detail present. LIBERTY is weak but fully readable. 1839-1840 will have the LIBERTY more worn than usual with ER even missing. On the reverse more detail on the leaves is gone the rim is bold but worn.
On the reverse There will be more wear and most of the leaf's details will be gone. The rim is complete but weak in certain areas the reverse will also look as if in a higher grade.
1837, Small Date. Graded G-4: The Liberty Is worn down and is now smooth. G-4 there are no letters left if LIBERTY. G-6 one or two letters are present but heavily worn. On the reverse It will be worn more extensively with the leaves being just an outline. The rim is more faded but still can be seen in some areas. Some of the letters might be worn or even worn away but the reverse still seems to be in higher grade.
1837, Small Date. Graded AG-3: The Liberty figure is visible but just an outline at this point showing no detail. The rim has been worn away but the date is still clear. On the reverse most if not all of the letters are worn away the wreath is just an outline and the rim is extensively weak.
1873. Graded PF-66 Ultra Cameo: The proof will be extensively clean and have a good amount of hair line if it is duller or grainy it will be put into a grade like PF-60-62. They are not really desired and it's better to go for 1846, a rare date. The 1837 Proof is usually cleaned making it lose its mirror surface. If it has medium hairlines but is still reflective then it will most likely get a PF-64 grade. PF-66 Will have hair lines so delicate that you will need magnification to see them. anything above that the proof should be free of any lines.
Collecting Liberty Seated Half Dimes
Numismatics was becoming very popular in the late 1850s but during the release of the Liberty Seated half dime there was really no interest in them. With proofs being a bit of an exception, being made from 1837 till the end of the series with the exception of 1851 and 1853.The curators for the mint cabinet which got organized in June 1838 really had no interest in the half dime Because of this the quantity range of the coin has gone from scarce two very rare to find one in Mint State condition. 1893 the publication of mint marks, A Treatise on the Coinage of United States Branch Mint. This changed the interest of collectors and the coin gained a following. Right by the time numismatics were able to get their hands on the coins they already showed extensive wear. The Liberty seated half dime is a very collectible coin with the only exception being 1870-S witch only one is known to exist. A good collection to go for is the circulated grades.
Some Things To Look For When Buying
Something that is present with almost every coin is to not rely heavily on the grade. you should be looking at sharpness and if it was a clean strike. You should be looking for eye appeal. A coin that is beautiful to the eye with a Lower grade is better than a lifeless coin with a higher Grade. The grading services will pay little attention to the beauty of the coin or its eye appeal but collectors and buyers will. Another thing that I would look for is interesting variants that a good portion of the public is not aware of such as misplaced dates and re-punches although I would advise you to research them before making a purchase. For circulated coins I would avoid coins with scratches and nicks.