All About Half Dimes

Before the invention of the nickel, the half dime was a lovely little coin that has now worked its way into some pretty impressive collections over the last hundred years.  With a limited production history and few variations, a well minted half dime is a collector’s dream.

Generally holding the same appearance and designs as larger United States silver coins, the half dime is immediately distinguishable by its small stature.  Originally 20.8 grains and .8924 fineness, the half dime is one of the smallest U.S. silver coins ever to be minted.  They appear to be half of a dime, and so the term for these 5 cent denominates was coined – no pun intended.

The half dime is a unique collectible in that some numismatists consider it to be the first coin minted under the United States Coinage Act of 1792.  The act officially minted currency as legal tender and implemented the decimal system for U.S. currency.  Others argue that it is no more than a pattern coin for testing a system in works.

With the authorization of production in July of 1792, a test piece known as the disme was in circulation the year before the first United States Mint actually opened for business.  Because the facilities were not yet made available, the first half dismes were struck in local craftsman, John Harper’s cellar with the oversight of official mint personnel.  Taking advantage of the limited quantity of available silver, it is rumored that President Washington donated his own household silverware!  In his fourth annual address on November 6, 1792, he stated: “There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dimes: the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.”  The half disme would forbear a long-standing history of U.S. coinage as a pattern piece for the half dime.  In 1795, the first official half dime was struck, though some were mint-marked 1794.  From then on, the coins were produced with great expedition and haste.

Over the course of eighty-one years thousands of half dimes were produced.  Most have been heavily circulated.  In 2006, a single PCGS MS67 half dime sold at auction for $1,322,500.  Their value is largely attributed to their historical significance and scarcity.

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Various developmental designs of the half dime include the Early Half Dime Flowing Hair Pattern (1792), the Draped Bust Half Dime (1996-1797), the Capped Bust Half Dime (1829-1837) and the Seated Liberty Half Dime (1837-1873).  You’ll notice that none of these specimens portray images of presidents, as George Washington insisted the rejection of monarchical imagery, opting for visions of liberty.

As a tangible token from the beginnings of America, it’s no wonder the half dime is so highly valued.  Though your chances of finding one of these by luck are next to none, you can find them in exchange between passionate collectors.  The Stamp & Coin place is home to the world’s finest assembled Seated Liberty 1858-1873 Proof Half Dime collection.  You can view some of our half dimes for sale on  ebay.

All About the 1804 Silver Dollar

It’s one of the rarest coins in the world: the U.S. issued very few 1804 silver dollars. And they were minted long after their face date of 1804. Only fifteen 1804 silver dollars are known to exist.

How did this all start? The records of the United States Mint show that 19,750 of the coins were struck in 1804, but used dies dated 1803. Paradoxically, dollars dated 1804 didn’t appear until 1834. These were created because the U.S. wanted to create sets of the coins to present to some rulers in Asia.



The King of Siam coin.

The King of Siam coin.

This included the King of Siam at the time, sparking the rumor that King Rama IV of Siam gave Anna Leonowens of The King and I fame the same silver dollar. According to legend, Anna passed the coin down to her children, and them to their children’s children, and so on through the generations. In the 1950’s two British women claiming to be descended from Anna sold the coin. The Smithsonian Institution displayed the coin as part of the “King of Siam” collection in 1983. They nicknamed it the “King of Coins”. In 2001, an anonymous collector bought the whole King of Siam set of coins for more than $4 million.

Class I of these silver dollars was minted in 1834. Class II of these coins was minted from 1858-1860 illegally by a man named Theodore Eckfeldt, who sold them to coin collectors from his shop in Philadelphia. The U.S. Mint tracked down and destroyed all but one of these coins. Class III was also minted from 1858-1860 by Theodore Eckfeldt, their distinguishing features including a reverse design and a lettered edge as found in Class I. Many Class III silver dollars found their way to collectors before the Mint seized the rest of them.