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Capped Bust Half Dimes (1829-1837)

Designer: John Reich. Engraver: William Kneass. Weight: 1.35 grams. Composition: .8924 silver, .1076 copper. Approx diameter: 15.5mm. Reeded edge. Changed to 1.34 grams, .900 fine in 1837.

Half Dimes of 1829 show two different reverse device punches, each consisting of eagle, arrows, olive branch, and inscribed scroll, but no other lettering. The first punch, “Triple Stripes,” show three lines in each pale gules. The second, “Double Stripes,” shows only two. The former appears only on three working dies of 1829; the latter on all the rest, through 1837 when the design was changed.

Coins dated 1829-32 sometimes come with cracked reverse originally used with obverse of later date, indicating that old obverse dies were carried to the new Second Mint building in 1833-35 and indiscriminately used as long as they would remain fit for service to save time of making new dies. The 1832 “No Berries” variety is part of this group, it reverse die is almost worn out.

Designed by John Reich, the Capped Bust half-dime shows Liberty in profile facing left wearing a Phrygian cap with LIBERTY inscribed on the headband. Ringlets of hair protrude from her cap at the forehead and ear, and her curls fall to the shoulders. A clasp just off the shoulder holds the drapery, and the date is below the truncation. Seven stars are to her left and six are to the right.

The reverse shows the heraldic eagle looking left with wings raised. Above the eagle, on a banner, is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The required inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the coin, and the denomination written as 5 C. is below.

John Reich put the denomination on the gold and silver coins of the time. This innovation had not been done previously because coins, especially in Europe, were valued for their metallic content and weight. By 1815 Reich had created a set of circulating coins with the common capped liberty obverse. In 1813 Reich modified the half eagle to become what is called the Capped Head design. Some contemporary critic called the bust of Liberty “Reich’s fat German mistress.”




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