Half Dime, Draped Bust, Coin Type from United States - detailed information

Half Dime, Draped Bust, Coin Type from United States (issued 1794 - 1805)
Coin TypeHalf Dime, Draped Bust

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 this Draped Bust half dime. It features on the obverse the draped bust of Miss Liberty, giving the design its name. The design is the same as on the larger denominations of the same period and, given that the value and denomination are not written on the coin, they have to be inferred by size only. The obverse was paired with two different reverses, a standing eagle (in 1796 and 1797 only) and the "heraldic eagle" from the Coat of Arms of the United State (1800 to 1805).

Coins of this type were only issued until 1805, then no half dimes were struck at all until 1829 when the denomination was resumed with the Capped Bust obverse and a new eagle reverse. 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.

United States / Half Dime, Draped Bust - obverse photo

The obverse of the coin shows a portrait of Liberty with flowing hair, facing right.

Around above, the inscription LIBERTY. Around the rim, fifteen stars (eight to the left and seven to the right) representing the 15 states which were then members of the Union. Some time during 1797 this was changed to show 13 stars instead.

Below the portrait, the date of issue: [year].

The rim is denticled (toothed).

Obverse Inscription ******* LIBERTY ****** [year]
United States / Half Dime, Draped Bust - reverse photo

There were two different reverses with the Draped Bust obverse.

Small Eagle (1796 and 1797); called "small" as compared to the later design paired with the Capped Bust Liberty.
The main device on the reverse is an eagle, standing, with open wings, looking to right. Around the eagle, a laurel wreath. Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The rim is denticled (toothed). Value and denomination are not displayed on the coin.

Heraldic Eagle (1800 - 1805): at centre, the main part of the obverse (or front) of the Great Seal of the United States, which displays the full achievement of the national coat of arms. The design has the Union Shield at centre, legally blazoned as "paleways of 13 pieces, argent and gules; a chief, azure" (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). The supporter of the shield is a bald eagle with its wings outstretched (or "displayed", in heraldic terms). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of seven arrows in its right talon, and an olive branch in its left talon. In its beak, the eagle clutches a scroll with the motto E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One"). Over its head there appears a "glory" with of clouds and 13 mullets (stars).

The recurring number 13 refers to the 13 original states. 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 arrows - unlike later versions where it looks towards the olive branch, to symbolise a preference for peace.

Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The rim is denticled (toothed). Value and denomination are not displayed on the coin.

EdgeMilledEdge InscriptionNone

In some online catalogues, the denomination is cryptically abbreviated as "H10C", from "half 10-cent", or "half dime"...

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Half Dime, Draped Bust: Details
CountryUnited States
CurrencyUS Dollar
Sub-type ofFive Cents
Face Value5 (x Cent)
CurrentNo; withdrawn 1873
Material0.892 Silver
DesignerRobert Scot
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
OrientationCoin Alignment (Axis 6)
Size16.5000 mm
Thickness1.9500 mm
Mass1.3500 g