These Post Revolutionary War Silver Half Dimes are silver coins that were valued at five cents and were roughly half the size of a dime. They are very important coins historically because there are many numismatists who consider these to be the first coins ever minted by the United States under America’s first coinage law, the Coinage Act of 1792. Production is believed to have begun in 1792, not long after the Constitutional Congress had adopted the United States Constitution which gave congress the stated authority to create coinage. Silver Half Dimes are extremely collectible for several important reasons that are rooted in the fierce debate between Thomas Jefferson and Alexandar Hamilton: State’s Rights on Jefferson’s side and Federalism on Hamilton’s side. First, by today’s standards, yearly issues were struck in extremely limited mintages due to a much smaller population of citizens needing coins. For example, only 7,000 of the 1794 Flowing Hair version were produced, and even until 1800 - 1805, only 40,000 of the Draped Bust design were issued. Second, because the United States Treasury and Mint held weak central authority, it was difficult to determine who should decide how to portray liberty or what motto's and images American coins should contain. In addition to design considerations, Congress was still experimenting with precisely what denominations and metals were most useful for commerce. Therefore, coin designs were tested and discontinued at what would today be a chaotic rate. The fledgling nation of the United States of America was just getting its footing, and coin designs were neither uniform nor sustained until the Pre Civil War period. In fact, private coin producers were still creating their own coinage during this time. Therefore, the Half Dime enjoyed many design changes that make them very interesting pieces of American history, with a political story and intrigue behind each coin’s new design. These factors have made collecting these extremely valuable and rare coins both fascinating and satisfying for generations of collectors, and they are worth far more than their modest weight in silver content. Some early issues in good condition are considered almost priceless and are considered appropriate for museums as representative artifacts from the Post Revolutionary War period of American history.
By simply reviewing a list of the various design changes of Liberty featured on the obverse (front) of each Half Dime in chronological order, one can see the fledgling America trying to settle on how best to depict Lady Liberty. The following is a list of design changes by date: (1792) Half Disme; (1794 - 1795) Flowing Hair Liberty Head; (1796 - 1797) Draped Bust Liberty with small eagle on reverse; (1800 - 1805) Draped Bust Liberty with heraldic eagle on reverse; (1829 - 1837) Capped Bust Liberty; (1837 - 1873) Seated Liberty with various subtypes; (1870) S-Half Dime. As one can see, as time progressed, designs began to last longer. Therefore, the issues from the earlier years are generally more valuable because fewer specimens exist. The late date editions of the Half Dime are still quite valuable, however, because they are still very rare by today’s standards. When specimens of these historical Half Dimes in any condition become available, they move very quickly.