The Half Dime is an American silver coin with a face value of five cents which was minted between 1794 and 1873. These coins were much smaller than dimes in diameter and thickness, appearing to be "half dimes" and are called so, even though until 1837 this was not actually spelled out on the coins themselves.
After the initial issue of a "Half Disme" in 1794 (note the additional S in the name) - which many people consider a pattern, the "Flowing Hair" type was only struck for two years and was replaced by the "Draped Bust" half dime; it had two different reverses, a "small eagle" and then the "heraldic eagle", but was short-lived too and was only struck until 1805.
After that, no half dimes were struck at all until 1829 when the denomination was resumed with this Capped Bust obverse and a new eagle reverse. The obverse design - common for the half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar of the time - shows a new concept of the portrait of Liberty where she wears a soft cap; it was designed by John Reich and modified by Chief Engraver of the Mint, William Kneass. It proved to be a popular design and lasted from 1807 to 1839 on the half dollar, 1815 to 1838 on the quarter, 1809 to 1837 on the dime, and 1829 to 1837 on the half dime. All four of these coin were struck in 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. After 1837, the type was replaced by the Seated Liberty design.
The silver format of the half dime was discontinued in 1873, but the coins have never been demonetised and are still legal tender. This, of course, is of academic interest only, as their numismatic value is enormously higher than their face value.
The main device on the reverse is an eagle, perched, with open wings, looking to left. On its breast, the Union Shield at centre, with thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of three arrows in its left talon, and an olive branch in its right talon.
The arrows and olive branch together symbolise that the United States has "a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war". The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, to symbolise a preference for peace.
Around above, a scroll inscribed with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM ("Out of Many, One").
Around the outer rim, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below the eagle, the abbreviated value and denomination 5 C. (Five Cents).
The rim is beaded.