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Draped Bust Half Dimes (1796-1805)

Draped Bust Half Dimes (1796-1805)

The reaction to the Flowing Hair Half Dime was polarizing. Seemingly no one, other than Robert Scot and some U.S. Mint officials liked the design. Because of the negative reaction, this design was discontinued after two brief years. What most people objected to was the flowing hair on Miss Liberty. Some found it scary, while others thought that it was undignified.

One of the first objectives for the new U.S. Mint Director Henry De Saussure was to redesign the flowing hair coinage. Wanting something radically different from what Robert Scot had previously designed, De Saussure turned to artist Gilbert Stuart.

Stuart’s numerous portraits of General Washington were well known and widely appreciated. Two patrons of Stuart included Martha Washington and Mrs. William Bingham of Newport, Rhode Island. Both had ordered two full-length portraits of General Washington for their homes. De Saussure asked Stuart to submit sketches for a new vision of Miss Liberty. Stuart asked his friend and patron Mrs. Bingham to model for Miss Liberty.  

Draped Bust Half Dime Redesign

Robert Scot and John Eckstein took the sketches of Stuart’s and, using Mrs. Bingham as the model for Miss Liberty, created a different design. Miss Liberty faced right and had the date below, the motto “LIBERTY” above and 7 stars to the right and 8 stars to the left. The reverse was essentially unchanged from the flowing hairstyle, with an American eagle holding an olive wreath with “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” around it.

Draped Bust Half Dimes Rev

Draped Bust Half Dimes Mintage

In 1796, only 10,230 coins were produced but that included a normal date, an over date of 1796/5 and a 1796 coin where the letter “B” in “LIBERTY” was actually a defective “R” that looked like a “K”- “LIKERTY.”

Then in 1797, a mere 44,527 coins were struck and there are 3 varieties among the stars. The first coins struck had 15 stars, one for each state in the Union. Later in the year, Tennessee became a state so a 16th star was added, and finally a 13-star variety was created because the U.S. Mint realized it could not strike an attractive and aesthetically balanced coin if they were to keep adding stars to the design. It permanently became 13 stars from that point forward.

No Draped Bust Half Dimes were struck during 1798 and 1799, but production resumed in 1800. However, now the reverse American eagle design underwent a major renovation. This created the two major types of Draped Bust Half Dimes - the small eagle and the heraldic eagle.

In 1800, 24,000 1800-dated coins and 16,000 of the LIKERTY variety were struck. Production dropped to 27,760 coins in 1801. 1802 was a scarce year for the Draped Bust Half Dime as only 3,060 coins were minted due to a Silver shortage and production problems. 1803 saw two varieties – a large 8 and a small 8 in the 37,850 coins minted.  No coins were struck dated 1804. In the final year of this design, 1805, 15,600 coins were minted. There were to be no more Half Dimes until 1829.

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