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1856 Half Dime

The 1856 half dime is one of the many half dimes minted from 1792 to 1857. These were the first coins struck by the U.S. Mint. Much of the silver at that time came from George Washington. So, what was the evolution of the half dime, or five cent piece?

1856 Half Dime

History of the Half Dimes

The making of pattern coins in 1792 was like a test run of the brand new U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The coins were approximately 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Lady Liberty on the front of the coin had flowing hair and the back had an eagle. These half dime coins were circulated the next year.

After the 1500 pattern coins were made in 1792, the U.S. Mint produced 7,000 half cent coins in 1793. Minting of these Flowing Hair Half Dimes continued until 1795. These early half dimes are rare and feature Lady Liberty with flowing hair surrounded by stars representing the states and the word “Liberty.” The reverse (back side) was the same as the pattern coins, with an eagle. The design was not well received by the public, who thought the hair was too wild and the eagle too scrawny.

From 1796 to 1797, the half dime was called the Draped Bust Half Dime and had a different image of Lady Liberty. There were 15 stars representing the 15 states on the outside of the front. When Tennessee joined the Union in 1797, another star was added. The Mint realized they could not continue adding stars, however, so it reverted back to 13 stars at the end of 1797.

The Draped Bust Half Dime with the Heraldic Eagle Reverse was minted from 1800 to 1805. The reverse of the coin had a bigger eagle with a shield in front of him from the Great Seal of the United States.

Between 1805 and 1829, no half dimes were produced. From 1829 to 1837, the half dime showed Lady Liberty with a liberty cap, so it is called the Capped Bust Half Dime. The reverse showed the eagle off center with the words “United States of America” and inside those “e pluribus unum” surrounding the eagle.

The Seated Liberty Half Dime was minted from 1837 to 1873. On the front was a seated Lady Liberty, with a staff that had a liberty cap at the top. To her side is a shield with the word “Liberty” on it. The reverse had the words “half dime” with a laurel wreath around it. Some of these coins had stars on the front and some did not. Some had the words “United States of America” on the reverse and some just had a larger wreath.

The 1856 half dime had the stars on the obverse and the words “Half Dime” in the center of the reverse, with the laurel wreath surrounding it and “United States of America” on the outside.

You are probably wondering when nickels were produced. During the 1860s, lobbyists pushed for the production of coins made of a nickel and copper alloy. These coins were minted in 1865 in three cents and five cents denominations. They contained 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. By 1873, the decision was made to stop producing the half dimes and nickels were here to stay.

The 1856 Half Dime

The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia produced 4,880,000 1856 half dimes while the U.S. Mint in New Orleans produced 1,100,000. The mint mark from New Orleans is an O and the Philadelphia Mint used no mint mark. The half dime from 1856 weighed 1.24 grams and was 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. It was about 15.5 mm in diameter and was reeded on the edge, meaning it had grooved lines.

The value of a half dime from 1856 in good condition from Philadelphia would be around $14 and $15 if it was from New Orleans with an O mint mark. A mint state half dime, which is a near perfect coin, would go for about $156 if it was from Philadelphia and $480 if it was from New Orleans.