United States 1807 Draped Bust Half Cent

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 US Congress discontinued the denomination with the Coinage Act of February 21, 1857.

Among collectors. however, the 1807 Draped Bust half cent is quite popular. It is also an enigmatic issue.

In that year, the United States 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.

Numismatist Walter Breen believed that the lion’s share of the purported mintage were actually coins date 1806, leaving 38,000 or thereabouts as the actual mintage of 1807 dated coins. The surviving population suggests that Breen’s number may be too conservative, but by how much no one knows.

Today, 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. Even this number may be too high, especially given the possibility of crossovers and resubmissions.

All half cents dated 1807, as with all other Draped Bust half cents, were struck on blank planchets that the US Mint imported from England. These blanks were produced by Matthew Boulton & 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.

The 1807 Half Cent in Today’s Market

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. 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-MS64 choice Mint State 1807 half cent, sold for the auction record of $18,000 in the March 2020 Stack’s Bowers Baltimore US 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.

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.

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 FredericksburgVirginia. 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:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1807
Denomination:  Half Cent
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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