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HomeUS Coins1807 Draped Bust Half Cent : A Collector's Guide

1807 Draped Bust Half Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1807 Draped Bust Half Cents in various states of wear.
1807 Draped Bust Half Cents in various states of wear.

The Half Cent: A Coin for the Everyman

The Draped Bust was the second design type of the half cent denomination. Conceived as an important low-value coin for the everyman, the denomination was never popular with the American public. With rising copper prices and decreased spending power, the United States Congress discontinued the denomination with the Coinage Act of February 21, 1857.

A Close Look at the 1807 Draped Bust Half Cent

The 1807 Draped Bust half cent is one of the most plentiful issues of its type, but numismatists have struggled over the years to nail down its mintage. It was struck using one pair of dies (Cohen-1, Eckerg 1-A in the standard references). The obverse is new, while the reverse is carried over from reverse C of 1806. The fraction bar on this reverse has a spike protruding from the right side.

The often cited mintage figure is 476,000. Numismatist Walter Breen surmised that the actual mintage was a fraction of that, suggesting 38,000+ in his Complete Encyclopedia. Early American Coppers (EAC) expert Bill Eckberg also believes that the 476,000 figure is off. In his 2019 reference, The Half Cent, 1793-1857: The Story of America’s Greatest Little Coin, Eckberg attributes 199,000 of that number to the Large 6 1806 half cent, leaving an estimated mintage of 356,000 when you figure that 1807-dated half cents would have likely been delivered from August 4, 1807 to about March 31 or April 4, 1808.

United States Mint records provide some insights, but they are open to interpretation. The Mint officially reported that they struck 476,000 half cents: 49,000 pieces on February 21; 20,000 coins on March 31; 130,000 coins on June 29; and 277,000 coins on September 28. However, there is only one known die pair for this type, and early American dies could not be expected to last that long.

The surviving population suggests that Breen’s number may be too conservative, but by how much no one knows.

The Quality of the 1807 Draped Bust Half Cents as Struck

The quality of this issue as struck largely depended on the planchet and the condition of the dies. Early die state examples with full denticles and full legends struck from rust-free dies are rare. In early to mid-die state, slightly rotated repunching of the number 7 is plainly visible. Examples struck in later die state have prominent die flow lines, weak-to-flat denticles, and poorly defined tops of the lettering on the legend. The hair detail is often poorly defined.

All half cents dated 1807, as with all other Draped Bust half cents, were struck on blank planchets that the U.S. Mint imported from England. These blanks were produced by Matthew Boulton and Company. After opening the Soho Mint, which Boulton stocked with eight modern steam coin presses capable of striking between 70 and 80 coins every minute, he was able to fill massive orders from the British government and the British East India Company – as well as sending more than 20 million blanks to the US Mint in Philadelphia. These were of high quality and were used to strike cent and half cent denominations.

What Is the Value of an 1807 Draped Bust Half Cent?

The vast majority of extant examples of the 1807 half cent have been designated as “Brown”. Of these, examples in Good, regularly sell for between $75 and $100. In Fine to Very Fine grades, examples cost between $200 and $375. However, above these grades–due to the type’s popularity and scarcity–the price of the 1807 half cent quickly increases, with examples in About Uncirculated grades selling for $700 to $1,500. While seldom available, when they come to market, pieces certified in low Mint State (MS-60 to MS-62) regularly auction for between $1,500 to $2,000.

PCGS CoinFacts estimates that there are only 800 surviving examples in all grades, with only 50 in MS-60 or better and none graded higher than MS-64 by either PCGS or NGC. But even this number may be too high, especially given the possibility of crossovers and resubmissions.

As the highest grade that this type and date is available with any regularity, certified MS-63s auction for between $7,000 and $8,000. The highest-graded example, a PCGS MS-64 choice Mint State 1807 half cent, sold for the auction record of $18,000 in the March 2020 Stack’s Bowers Baltimore U.S. Coins Auction.

It is estimated that there are five or fewer surviving examples with the “Red-Brown” color designation, of which at least one is graded XF-45. While one of these examples auctioned by Heritage Auctions in 2002 sold for $334, the auction record for an AU-55 RB example sold by Stack’s also in 2002 realized $1,840.

There are no known surviving examples of the 1807 half cent with the “Red” designation. If one is found and certified, it will surely earn the new auction record and probably be considered the finest example.

CoinWeek Notes: Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS64BN (3, 1/2024). NGC MS63BN (3, 1/2024).

  • PCGS MS64BN #12273550: “ESM Collection”, Stack’s Bowers, March 19, 2020 – $18,000. Manley Die State 3.0. Die rust apparent. Weak legend. Minimal denticulation.
  • PCGS MS64BN CAC #05645218: Bill Weber Collection, sold privately; “The Red Headed Copper Collection”, Heritage Auctions, August 16, 2018, Lot 5023 – $27,600.
  • PCGS MS64BN #32708219: Stack’s, August 1971, Lot 508 – $135; Willard C. Blaisdell Collection; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr. Collection”, via Del Bland, September 1976; Marketed in William K. Raymond’s August 1977 Fixed Price List – $600; R. Tettenhorst Collection, by sale, August 1977; Missouri Cabinet Collection; As PCGS MS64+BN CAC. “Missouri Cabinet Collection of U.S. Half Cents”, January 2014, Lot 87 – $71,875; to Pogue family. As PCGS MS64BN #32708219. “The D. Brent Pogue Family Collection, Part V”, Stack’s Bowers / Sotheby’s, March 31, 2017, Lot 5057 – $37,600. Reverse rotated 40° counterclockwise. Tick on cheek, neck, hair above ear. Dark spot to the immediate right of 7. Strong hair detail.
  • PCGS MS63+BN #30451262: Garry Fitzgerald; Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions, September 1984, Lot 44; “The James R. McGuigan Half Cent Collection”, Heritage Auctions, August 22, 2022, Lot 3078 – $7,800. Pedigree research assisted by Heritage Auctions.
  • PCGS MS63BN CAC #38556448: As PCGS MS63BN CAC #25242345. Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 3082 – $9,987.50. As PCGS MS63BN CAC #25636387. Heritage Auctions, December 7, 2017, Lot 3007 – $8,400. As PCGS MS63BN CAC #38556448. Heritage Auctions, June 4, 2020, Lot 3006 – $6,900. Manley Die State 3.0. Dark curved mark to the left of Liberty’s hair ribbon. A second dark mark near the edge near the 9°clock position. On the reverse, the top of the legend is weak. Dark area underneath LF is verdigris.
  • NGC MS63BN #1624562-002: Heritage Auctions, April 18, 2012, Lot 3055 – $10,925. Manley Die State 3.0. Horizontal scratch above 0 in date. Thin vertical curved scratch from hair behind ear to blouse.
  • NGC MS63BN #1909669-002: Heritage Auctions, April 9, 2007, Lot 153 – $6,235. Manley Die State 3.0. Top of LI and bottom of 1 and 7 weak.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse design of the Draped Bust half cent is dominated, like many early American coins, by the bust of a right-facing Lady Liberty. Her hair is depicted blowing in the wind, the motion complemented by the bow holding Liberty’s hair back from her face. Liberty’s chest is “draped” with a classical revival version of an ancient toga. The legend, LIBERTY, is engraved over the bust and the date (1807) can be seen at the bottom of the coin, with the fields mostly left blank.

While faint, and sometimes not visible, both sides of the half cent have denticled borders.

Reverse:

As with all half cent types, the reverse design of the 1807 Draped Bust half cent is centered on the written denomination, HALF CENT. The denomination is surrounded by a laurel wreath with five berries on each branch. The two halves of the wreath are tied together by a ribbon. The reverse of the 1807 is in the “style of 1803” – this means that the wreath is slightly larger than examples struck in 1802 or before. Additionally, in this style, the ends of the wreath point upwards instead of inwards, and the lettering is slightly larger than on the earlier types. The wreath is surrounded by THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Underneath the wreath, and between the two tails of the bow is the fractional denomination, “1/200”, which stands for one two-hundredth of a dollar.

Edge:

The edge of the 1807 Draped Bust half cent is plain or smooth, without lettering or reeding.

Designer

Robert Scot was the second engraver employed by the United States Mint. Born in England in 1744, Scot immigrated to the United States in 1775, first settling in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia around 1783, where he produced portraits for the Rees Encyclopedia. He received an appointment with the Mint on November 23, 1793, where he got to work producing designs for the cent. Initially known for his banknote engravings, Scot worked with the Mint where he developed the Draped Bust, Flowing Hair, and Turban Head gold coin designs. He was succeeded by engraver William Kneass at the time of Scot’s death on November 1, 1823.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1807
Denomination: Half Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 476,000 (Published)
Alloy: Copper
Weight: 5.44 g
Diameter: 23.50 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer Robert Scot
REV Designer Robert Scot
Quality: Business Strike

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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