Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) has certified an unstruck planchet for 1793 Half Cents. Among the most unusual items ever seen by NGC, this recently submitted copper planchet for half cents was never struck with dies yet displays a perfectly lettered edge. This is entirely possible, as the edge lettering was applied first in a separate step before the obverse and reverse dies completed the process of coining. What makes this particular planchet so appealing is that the edge device establishes that it was intended for half cents made only during 1793.
Half cents dating from the first emission in 1793 through the end of calendar year 1795 were struck to the original standard of 104 grains, which translates into 6.739 grams. The unstruck planchet certified by NGC weighs 104.22 grains (6.75 grams), entirely within reasonable tolerance. This weight standard applied to all half cents dated 1793 and 1794, as well as the lettered edge half cents dated 1795 (plain edge half cents of that date were struck the following year on thinner, lighter planchets).
The small diameter of this planchet (21.2 mm) is correct for a 1793 half cent, which is approximately 22 mm after striking (those of 1794-95 are approximately 23.5 mm). In addition, this planchet bears an edge device known to numismatists as the Edge of 1793 and unique to half cents of that date. Incuse lettering that reads TWO HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR is followed by two leaves pointing at one another. Subsequent edge lettering dies featured just a single leaf. Both sides of the planchet are slightly raised near the edge, a by-product of the lettering process in which the planchet was rotated and compressed between two straight dies, each bearing half of the inscription. The faces display the rough surface typically seen on planchets prior to striking.
The history of this planchet prior to its submission to NGC is unknown. The submitter, a dealer based in California, did not provide a provenance to NGC, but there is no question that this specimen is a genuine planchet for the 1793 Half Cent. How and when it escaped the Mint is unknown, but there are documented accounts of planchets and other coining debris having been found at the site of the first US Mint when the building was razed in 1911.
These were described by Frank H. Stewart, owner of the structure, who had it removed for the construction of his new building, which itself was razed in 1965. Stewart published a history of the original structure and its operations in 1924, in which he illustrated several planchets and struck coins found during his excavation (pages 118-119, History of the First United States Mint, reprinted by Quarterman Publications in 1974).
Certifies Unstruck Planchet for 1793 Half Cents Dave Camire, Numismatic Conservation Services® (NCS®) President and Mint Error specialist stated, “It is truly amazing that even after 220 years ‘previously unknown’ errors such as this lettered edge planchet still surface.”