A Favorite Half Dime Superb Mint State 1796/5 Draped Bust Finest Graded by PCGS

Interesting Early Half Dimes

Half dimes have been numismatic favorites for a long time. The D. Brent Pogue Collection has an incredible selection of these, to be offered at auction this May.

The early issues in particular are fascinating to study. The first federal coinage released into circulation consisted of about 1,500 1792 half dismes (as the denomination was first known). These were struck in the shop of John Harper in Philadelphia in mid-May prior to the Mint being in operation (which did not happen until the autumn). The silver to make them was provided by George Washington.

Within the Mint the first half dime dies made were dated 1794 and were of the Flowing Hair design. These dies were not used at the time, but were held over until 1795. In that year half dimes dated 1794 and 1795 were struck.

Good trivia questions:

Were any half dimes struck in 1794? Answer: No.

Do 1794 half dimes exist? Answer: Yes.

Such things are always interesting to ponder.

The Draped Bust Design

In the autumn of 1795 the Mint decided to change the obverse design of the copper and silver coinage. For copper half cents and cents a head of Miss Liberty with a liberty cap had been used since 1793. For silver half dimes, half dollars, and silver dollars the Flowing Hair motif had been employed in 1794 and so far into 1795. According to tradition, sketches of Miss Liberty were made by artist Gilbert Stuart, but facts are scarce.

The first Draped Bust circulating coinage was the silver dollar of 1795. Two obverse dies were made, known today as Bowers Borckardt-51, with the portrait positioned slightly left of center, and BB-52 with the portrait centered. It was not until 1800 that the Draped Bust design was used on half cents. For cents, dimes, quarters, and half dollars the inaugural year was 1796.

That brings us to the 1796/5 half dime. In 1795 an obverse die was made for the 1795 Draped Bust half dime, but none are known to have been struck. In 1796 the die, apparently unused up to that point, was altered by having a 6 digit punched over the 5 to create an overdate. Thus, the 1796/5 half dime is almost, but not quite, a 1795 Draped Bust half dime!

The Pogue Collection coin has been graded as MS-66 by PCGS, the highest and only coin to achieve this Superb Gem designation. As such it is an American numismatic treasure.

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