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Liberty Cap Half Cent (1793-1797)

Minted in 1793 to 1857, the half cent is the smallest denomination ever minted in the United States. It came in different design varieties, including the Liberty Cap Half Cent that was issued from 1793 to 1797.

It came in two different versions.

Bust left (1793)

Issued in 1793 only, the Liberty Cap, Left was designed by Henry Voigt, the Chief Coiner of the first United States Mint.

The obverse showed an idealized head of Liberty facing left. In the background is a large, floppy Phrygian cap on a pole. Above the bust is the inscription LIBERTY and below it is the date 1793.

The reverse features sketches of a laurel wreath of leaves and berries tied with a bow. It was provided by scientist David Rittenhouse.

The wreath is surrounded by the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the fraction 1/200. In the center is the inscription HALF CENT.

The periphery on both sides of the coin is encircled by a beaded border and the incuse inscription TWO HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR followed by two leaves are written on the edges.

35,334 of the new Liberty Cap Half Cent facing left was struck in the fledgling United States Mint. It is considered a scarce date in the Liberty Cap Half Cent series. In fact, only about 550 specimens exist today, many of which are of a lower circulated grade.

Despite a one-year run, there are four varieties of the 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent.

  • 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent, W-1
  • 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent, W-2
  • 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent, W-3
  • 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent, W-4

Each one shows minor changes, such as the L of LIBERTY appearing partly over the hairline.

Bust right (1794-1797)

The second type of Liberty Cap Half Cent is the Liberty Cap, Right. It features Liberty with a large head designed by Chief Engraver Robert Scot. He also enlarged the size of the Phrygian cap in the background of Liberty. The reverse has a similar design but without the sprays of berries.

In 1795 through 1797, the design changed. This time, Liberty was designed by assistant engraver John Smith Gardner with a small head. This is a result of the size of the die and the relief reduced. The wreath elements were hand-punched.

This version of the Liberty Cap Half Cent comes with numerous varieties.

  • Punctuated date of 1795 where the date read 1,795
  • The pole missing in front of Liberty’s bust for both 1795 and 1796 issues.
  • Some 1795 and 1797 half cents were struck from cut-down Talbot, Allum & Lee tokens
  • Varieties of plain edge and lettered edge are known for 1797.
  • A variety in 1797 showing the numeral 1 directly above the 1 in the date.

In terms of mintage figures, 81,601 Bust Right Liberty Cap Half Cent coins were struck in 1794, 139,690 in 1795, 1,390 in 1796, and 127,840 in 1797. In the Liberty Cap series, the rarest date is 1796.

All Liberty Cap Half Cents were produced at the Philadelphia mint and are struck without mintmarks.

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