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James Bucki

The First U.S. Denomination to Be Eliminated

By February 21, 2013

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liberty cap half cents 1793-1797A long time ago when our country was still young, a dollar was a lot of money, a penny bought a small bag of candy and half cents were given in change. In the early to mid-1800s demand for half cents began to decline. Demand again picked up slightly around 1850, but by 1857 demand waned and the United States eliminated the half cent.

Currently, there is a tremendous amount of discussion regarding the elimination of the Lincoln cent. It currently costs the United States more than a penny to make each penny and it doesn't even by a single piece of candy. Back in the 1800s the United States was facing the same dilemma with the half cent. As you know, nobody misses the coin and life got on without it. In fact, half cents are now highly collectible and most half cents will cost you "a pretty penny." If you would like to learn more about these fascinating coins, I have written a series of articles to help you get started.

All About Half Cents:

Images Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

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Comments

February 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm
(1) Coin Collectors Blog says:

The elimination of the half-cent wasn’t just because “demand waned.” It was because that there was no need for it to produce change of a bit when congress demonetized foreign coins.

It was the Mint Act of 1792 that allowed for foreign coins to circulate along side US coins while the US Mint was starting. As part of that effort, Alexander Hamilton, whose report the First Mint Act was based (along with changes by Jefferson) suggested the half-cent in order to make change for two bits. Remember, a bit was one-eighth of a real, the Spanish Pillar Dollar (or piece of eight). Traditionally, it was cut in eighths to be used as partial currency. One-eigth of a real was a bit, or translated to 12 1/2 cents. It is how the quarter was nicknamed the two bits–two pieces of the 8 real coin or a quarter of the Pillar Dollar.

By the 1850s, US coins were in wide circulation and the need for the half-cent for change of two-bits was not as necessary. Also, the amount of copper in the half-cent was more than the coin was worth, making it too expensive to make. With the reduction in size of the cent (large cent to today’s smaller version at 22mm) and the ending of the legal tender status of foreign currency, congress agreed to end the half-cent since it was not necessary in change.

In this case, it had nothing to do with demand. After all, congress agreed to have the Mint produce the 2 and 3 cent coins to purchase postage rather than step up the production of cents and nickels. They were also convinced to produce the 20-cent coin because the rest of the world was doing something similar. This coin was later discontinued because of lack of demand. So were the 2 and 3 cent coins.

February 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm
(2) john connolly says:

If the treasury does away with the penny, do yo think that that will raise the value on coins of previous years?

March 1, 2013 at 10:17 am
(3) James Bucki says:

Blog,

Aggreed. All of these points and more led to the demise of the half cent. Additionally, there was also political jockeying and “lobbying” that also influenced the decision to end the half cent and shrink the size of the one cent piece.

Thanks for the history.

Jim

March 3, 2013 at 10:35 am
(4) Jean says:

So, if the US eliminates the penny, what do we do with our jars of pennies? (keeping the wheaties regardless)

March 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm
(5) Pete says:

Hello,
Do you think that the wheat-penny would increase is value if they cut the current penny?

Curious to know what your thoughts are on this. WOuld suggest in investing in wheat pennies?
Thanks for all your posts and article. I love them.
Pete

March 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm
(6) Pete says:

Hello,
Do you think that the wheat-penny would increase is value if they cut the current penny?

Curious to know what your thoughts are on this. WOuld suggest in investing in wheat pennies?
Thanks for all your posts and article. I love them.
Pete

March 9, 2013 at 2:30 am
(7) Christian Louboutin Men Sneakers says:

I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog.
Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days.

March 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm
(8) noah says:

I have a coin the same size 22mm a morgan dollar.That is nickel size from the 1870′s.whats is it worth?well, its one of a kind. Then cann’t find it any where on the internet.

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