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Flowing Hair Half Dime, 1794-1795 | CoinWeek

1795 Flowing Hair Half Dime. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1795 Flowing Hair Half Dime. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Small numbers of half dismes were made in 1792, a tangible result of the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton to move the United States to a decimal coinage system. The 1792 coins are sometimes collected as contract issues or patterns, though wear on the coins and documentary evidence indicates that they did circulate.

Robert Scot modified the design of the first half dime, using a Liberty portrait similar to the one appearing on 1794 Liberty Cap cents and half cents but without the cap and pole. The new design appears not only on the half dimes but also on half dollar and silver dollar coins, reflecting a Mint policy of the time that all silver coins share a common design. Because these early circulating coins were valued by weight, no denomination appears on the coin, though HALF DISME appears on a unique copper pattern created by Scot.

Artist's mockup of the 1794 Flowing Hair half disme pattern (Judd-14).
Artist’s mockup of the unique 1794 Flowing Hair half disme pattern in copper. (Judd-14).

Though today, Flowing Hair coins of all denominations are appreciated for their historic and artistic merit, criticism at the time of issue of the less-than-aristocratic appearance of Liberty lead to a revised Draped Bust portrait starting in 1796. The eagle was also slightly modified, but that basic design remained until replaced by the Heraldic Eagle design in 1800.

Just shy of 1,500 Flowing Hair half dimes have been certified; most are the 1795 issue. Though not extremely expensive at grades of Good to Fine, prices climb steadily in grades above that, soaring once one gets to Choice Mint State and finer. While the media usually pays more attention to historic 1792 issue, the two-year Flowing Hair half dime is an eagerly sought representative of the relatively few 18th-century federal coins available to collectors today.

Varieties

About fifteen varieties are known, showing minor variations in the placement and design of device elements, most represented by just a handful of listings in census/population reports. While every Flowing Hair half dime is a variety, only devoted series specialists collect the series by die marriage.

Beware of Counterfeits

Design

Obverse:

On the obverse, a youthful Liberty faces right, head held high, with long hair flowing unfettered down the back of her neck. The word LIBERTY is centered at the top inside a denticled rim, with the date centered at the bottom. Fifteen six-point stars split eight to the left and seven to the right along the rim between the top and bottom text.

Reverse:

The reverse displays UNITED STATES OF AMERICA along the edge of the coin inside a denticled rim. Just inside the legend is an encircling pair of olive branches, crossed and tied at the bottom but slightly apart at the top. In the center, a right-facing eagle with outstretched wings rests on a surface, perhaps a cloud or a rock. The left wing (viewer’s right) is in front of the olive branch wreath, the right behind it.

No denomination appears on the coins; all were minted in Philadelphia.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1794-1795
Denomination: Half Dime (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: High 78,660 (1795), Low 7,765 (1794). Some references list a slightly different combined total for both dates of 86,416.
Alloy: .892 silver, .108 copper
Weight: 1.35 g
Diameter: ±16.5 mm
Edge Reeded
OBV Designer Robert Scot
REV Designer Robert Scot
Quality: Business Strike

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Logan, Russell J. and John W. McCloskey. Federal Half Dimes. John Reich Collectors Society.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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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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