The 1793 Liberty Cap has obvious significance as the first Half Cent produced by the Mint, and is also a highly coveted one-year type. In the informative Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents: 1793-1857 Breen wrote that the Philadelphia Mint prepared two obverse and three reverse dies for this issue between April and July, 1793.
The obverse design may have been based on sketches prepared by David Rittenhouse, who in turn relied heavily on Augustin Dupre’s attractive Libertas Americana medal of 1782.
Walter Breen made a case for Adam Eckfeldt as the designer of these coins, although other specialists have disputed such an attribution. It is not known who actually prepared the design and the dies for these first half cents, although it may have been Joseph Wright, who designed the Liberty Cap large cents two months later.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
At the time, half cents and large cents were not actually legal tender issues, a status reserved for silver and gold coins that were first produced in the following year. Section 16 of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792 specifically stated: “That all the gold and silver coins which shall have been struck at, and issued from the said mint, shall be a lawful tender in all payments whatsoever, those of full weight according to the respective values herein before declared, and those of less than full weight at values proportional to their respective weights.”
On July 20, the first 7,000 pieces were produced, followed by 24,934 coins on July 26, and a further 3,400 pieces on September 18. These three deliveries totaled a mere 35,334 coins.
Four varieties are known for the 1793 half cents, and they were produced in an unbroken chain consisting of two obverse and three reverse dies.
C-1 variety is considered by most specialists to be the first 1793 half cent struck, according to die state and emission sequence analysis. Periods after AMERICA and CENT.
C-2 The cap is far from the Y of LIBERTY, and the 1 numerator is centered over the 200 denominator.
C-3 This variety is most easily attributable by the fraction that is crowded between the ribbons on the reverse, the short 7 in the date, and the low L above the hair.
C-4 The most frequently seen of the 1793 varieties, and characterized by the long stems on the lower reverse and the ribbon ends that are split for at least half their length. It also has a mint-made die lump centered above the 7 in the date. The AT and ES in STATES are widely spaced.
Designer: undetermined; possible candidates include Joseph Wright or Adam Eckfeld
Denomintion: Half Cent 1/200
Diameter: ±22 millimeters
Metal content: 100% Copper
Weight: 104 grains (6.74 grams)
Edge: Lettered (“TWO HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR”)