Though the No Stars half dime was a more faithful rendition of the cameo-like Liberty Seated design as implemented by Christian Gobrecht, objections were voiced about the “missing” stars. William Kneass had included 13 small stars to the sides of Liberty on the previous Capped Bust half dime, but Gobrecht did not include them on the Liberty Seated half dimes produced at Philadelphia in 1837 and at New Orleans in 1838. The first Liberty Seated half dimes and dimes were in effect miniature renditions of the design Gobrecht had used for the first Liberty Seated dollars produced in 1836, which showed only Liberty and the date on an otherwise blank field on the obverse.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
To conform to Mint policy of having standard designs on coins made from the same metal, and perhaps to quiet the concerns of critics, stars were added to the obverse of quarters, dimes, and half dimes in 1838 (but not, interestingly, to the 1838 New Orleans half dime), and half dollars and dollars in 1839 and 1840. Mint Director Robert M. Patterson’s goal of standardized designs could, of course, have also been achieved by leaving stars off all Liberty Seated silver coins, but that was not to be. The first three years of half dimes with Stars did however have another design distinction, apparent only in comparison to issues produced from 1841 forward. Robert Ball Hughes, a sculptor originally from London, was hired in late 1840 to make modifications to Liberty on the Seated design. Along with other changes, Hughes added extra drapery that extended from Liberty’s left elbow down over her knee. This earlier Stars type does not have that drapery, nor Hughes’ other changes, but the lack of drapery has become the identifier of the type.
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 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.
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, No Drapery half dimes were produced at Philadelphia and New Orleans; the O mintmark is located below DIME and above the bows of the ribbon.
Several hundred circulation strike Liberty Seated, Stars, No Drapery half dimes have been certified, including a couple of prooflike pieces. Prices are moderate for most dates up to near-Gem, expensive as Gem and finer. Higher priced issues include the 1838 Small Stars and both New Orleans issues, all of which are more expensive in Mint State grades. All proof issues are expensive, becoming very expensive as Select proof and finer; Cameo and Deep Cameo pieces are known.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully design
Circulation Mintage: high 2,225,000 (1838), low 695,000 (1840-O)
Proof Mintage:high 10 (1839 and 1840, estimated), low 5 (1838, 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
Varieties: A few known, including 1838 Small Stars, 1840-O Large Letters reverse, 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.