This type might be more specifically described as the Stars, Drapery half dime, to distinguish it from the previous 1838-1840 Stars, No Drapery issue prepared by Christian Gobrecht. Robert Ball Hughes, a sculptor originally from London, was hired in late 1840 to make modifications to Liberty on the Seated design for half dimes, dimes, quarters, and dollars. Along with other changes, Hughes added extra drapery that extended from Liberty’s left elbow down over her knee. In 1853 an arrow was added to each side of the date, indicating a lower weight. The arrows were part of the half dime design through 1855, but were removed in 1856 through the end of the type in 1859, though the weight remained at the lower standard.
In additional to changing the drapery, Hughes made other changes which are subtle but readily apparent when both 1840 half dime types are placed side-by-side. On the Drapery type Liberty’s image is smaller overall, as is the rock upon which she rests, and her legs are angled downward at a slightly different angle. Her arms and body overall are more stocky, though her head appears to be smaller. Her clothing has fewer folds and is draped differently, including the identifying extra cloth below the elbow and a higher neckline. The Union shield at Liberty’s side, in front of the rock, was formerly tilted back at an angle but now is nearly vertical. The Liberty cap is also smaller. The reverse has the same design elements as before but with larger text and a fuller wreath.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
On the obverse a full-length representation of Liberty wears long, flowing robes and is seated on a rock, head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a slightly curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. Inside dentils along the raised rim, 13 stars form a partial circle, seven to the left of Liberty, one between Liberty’s head and the Liberty cap, and five to the right. From 1853 through 1855 an arrow was added to each side of the date to indicate a reduced coin weight. The arrows were removed in 1856 and left off through the end of this type in 1859.
The reverse has a concentric circle formed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, broken at the bottom by the ribbon that ties the ends of two laurel branches. The branches form another circle inside the text, though the ends are slightly separated at the top, and in the center is the denomination of HALF DIME, each word on a separate line. A circle of dentils lies inside the raised rim. Stars, Drapery half dimes were produced at Philadelphia (each year) and New Orleans (1840-1842, 1844, 1848-1859); the O mintmark is located below DIME and above the bows of the ribbon.
Several hundred circulation strike Liberty Seated, Stars, Drapery half dimes have been certified for most dates, including a few prooflike pieces. Prices are moderate for many dates up to Premium Gem, expensive finer than that. Higher priced issues include 1840-O Drapery, 1842-O, 1844-O, 1846, 1849-O, and 1853-O No Arrows, all of which are expensive as About Uncirculated or finer. The 1846 and 1853-O No Arrows are expensive as XF/ AU and finer. Cameo and Deep Cameo proofs have been certified, a few more for the later dates of the type. All proof issues from 1840 through 1855 are expensive, becoming very expensive as Select proof and finer; proof issues from 1854 and 1855 are about half the price of the earlier years. Prices drop for 1856 proof pieces, though still expensive as near-Gem and finer, and drop again for 1858 and 1859 issues, though expensive as Gem and finer.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht modified by Robert Ball Hughes, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully design
Circulation Mintage: high 13,210,000 (1853), low 27,000 (1846)
Proof Mintage:high 800 (1859, estimated), low 5 (1853 Arrows at Date, estimated)
Denomintion: $0.05 Five Cents, 05/100 Half Dime
Diameter: ±15.5 mm; reeded edge
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±1.34 grams 1840-1853 No Arrows; 1.24 grams 1853-1859
Varieties: Several known, including 1844/1844, 1845/1845, 1848 Medium and Large Date, 1849 9 over 6 and 9 over 8, 1853-1855 Arrows at Date, 1858 Repunched High Date and Over Inverted Date, and other minor die variations.
Additional Resources :
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.