The half cent is the smallest denomination of United States coin ever minted. It was first minted in 1793 and last minted in 1857. During its existence, it was minted with five different designs.
First authorised by the Coinage Act of 1792 on April 2, 1792, the half-cent piece was made of 100% copper and was valued at five milles, or one two-hundredth of a dollar. It was slightly smaller than a modern U.S. quarter with diameters 22 mm (1793), 23.5 mm (1794-1836) and 23 mm (1840-1857).
The first design, known as the Liberty Cap, was issued from 1793 until 1797. It was among the first coins produced by the Philadelphia Mint. Production of the half cent was temporarily suspended in 1797, then resumed in 1800 with this new design, known as the "Draped Bust", which had already been in use on the silver coinage for several years. The obverse features a "rather buxom" bust of Liberty facing right. Some accounts identify the model as Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham, daughter of the first president of the First Bank of the United States. The reverse remained the same as before; the style of the wreath was modified in 1803.
Half cents of the Draped Bust type were only issued until 1808, after which time the "Classic Head" design was introduced.
The denomination was discontinued by the Coinage Act of February 21, 1857. While withdrawn from circulation and not used any more, the coins were never officially demonetised though.