Draped Bust Half Cent

By the early 19th century, when the United States Mint in Philadelphia had been in operation for almost decade, its turnout of copper half cents and cents was fairly steady and mintages were increasing. The large and heavy copper coins played an important role in the commerce of the newly-formed country, and circulated alongside old colonial coppers and world coins of all sorts and denominations. American cents and half cents were first struck in 1793, and had already seen at least a few design alterations. In 1800, the half cent was altered again, and a new design made by Robert Scot was used, which would be known as the Draped Bust Half Cent. The coins were minted from 1800 to 1808, but were not produced during 1801

Draped Bust Half Cent

The obverse design features a rendition of Lady Liberty. She is facing to the right, and as the series name implies, she is wearing drapery around her bust, of which the truncation is just below her neck. Her hair is tied up with a ribbon. This image of Liberty was likely based on a portrait that was finished by Gilbert Stuart in 1795. The woman is said to have been Anne Willing Bingham, wife of the influential Philadelphia statesman William Bingham. While her appearance on the half cents and cents designed by Robert Scot is unconfirmed, it is likely to be true and has been printed as such in numerous references. The word LIBERTY is spelled in capital letters above her head, with the date appearing beneath in a curved fashion.

The reverse comes in two different types, easily identified as such. The first, so-called style of 1800 was used on the half cents of that date, and a few rare examples struck in 1802. It featured the same reverse design as used on the previous Liberty Cap Half Cents. The denomination, spelled as HALF CENT appears inside a small laurel wreath, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounding. The value of a half cent compared to the silver dollar is below, appearing as “1/200″ with a horizontal fraction bar dividing the numbers. Both the lettering and devices are relatively small.

On the second type, known as the style of 1803, the wreath and lettering are larger. The ends of the wreath also point more upwards than on the previous type, and usually are sufficient to identify this type. This style was used on the majority of 1802-dated half cents and used until the discontinuation of the series in 1808.

The series represents the first type of early copper coins that, for some dates, is somewhat easily acquired in higher grades. Most specifically, these would be About Uncirculated examples of some of the most common dates. Mint State examples with original surfaces, like all early coppers, are scarce, and some dates warrant a heavy premium due to their rarity. Other varieties, identified in the Red Book, are very rare as well and seldom appear on the market. A simple date set, regardless of varieties, in lower circulated grades is not too difficult to complete, but finding original examples without corrosion will be difficult in those grades.