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Flowing Hair Half Dimes

FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, THE BIRCH design origin-ally used on the half disme of 1792 was abandoned, and a less imaginative conception adopted for 1794 silver issues, copying that found on the half dollar and dollar of the same date. This design is attributed to Robert Scot. The head of Liberty is vaguely reminiscent of that used on the Wreath Cents of 1793, but in about the same way that the image of the Lincoln Memorial on the cent is reminiscent of the actual building on the Washington Mall.

The coins dated 1794 were made from three pairs of dies muled in four combinations, in the order Valentine (U.S. Half Dimes, ANS, 1931) gives:

1. Wide date, double leaf atop right branch. Rarity-7.

2. Close crowded date, same reverse. Rarity-6; at least five known in Uncirculated condition.

3. Close crowded date, a berry almost touches I of UNITED. Of about equal rarity to the last.

4. Closest date far from bust; F rests on a leaf. High Rarity-4. Most of these V-4's were struck after the V-1 and V-10 of 1795; all 1794-dated half dimes were delivered in calendar year 1795, and are believed to have been included in the delivery of 7,756 pieces, March 30, 1795. There are one to three presentation pieces " beautiful well struck prooflike gems " known of each of the varieties, and over a dozen V-4's in Mint State " evidently saved as first year of issue.

Of 1795-dated half dimes (78,660 minted) ten varieties exist, mostly of great rarity; only the last three to be listed here are ever found in choice condition, and those evidently owing to a small hoard found in the 1880's, possibly as few as 25 or as many as 100 Uncirculated specimens. The varieties are here listed in a rational sequence for easy identification, partly in the hope of stimulating interest in the series, as they are nearly as variable as the copper cents-and even more elusive.

1-A. (V-1.) First star high " between 2nd and 3rd curls from bottom; F rests on a leaf. (Die of 1794 V-4, but struck before the latter.) Almost always with an obverse crack from the rim between TY into the brow. Rarity-7.

2-A. (V-10.) First star squeezed between two lower curls; 3rd star merged with 2nd curl; same reverse as the last. Recut at 4th and 5th stars and tops of IB. Discovered by C. Steigerwalt (1900); first illustrated in Philip Straus estate collection, lot 433, New Netherland Coin Company's 53rd sale. Rarity-8.

3-B. (V-2.) Date straight, 1 high and leaning to the right. End of bust broken off right of 5. Berry below left foot of first A of AMERICA. Usually with a bisecting crack from the rim to R to the hair to the edge just to the right of lowest curl point. High Rarity-6.

4-B. (V-3.) Only 6 curls; 6th and 7th stars apart; same reverse as 1-A above. Heavy break involving 11th to 14th stars, Borderline Rarity-8.

5-B. (V-9.) Only 6 curls; 6th and 7th stars too close together. Date very wide, 7 9 farthest apart. Same reverse. Unknown to Valentine, described from the only one Newlin saw (1883); first illustrated as lot 181 in New Netherland's 54th sale.

5-C. (V-7.) Same obverse with heavy crack, rim between 7 9 through 95, bust point, 3 stars to rim. Reverse: No inner or outer berries below wings. Rarity-8.

6-C. (V-8.) Top of hair almost touches E; same reverse as last. Bisecting crack, rim to T, hair, lowest curl, rim. High Rarity-7.

7-C. (V-5.) L low, I B far apart, same reverse. Often with crack, Y to nose, later down through 7 to rim. Usually flat in centers. Many Uncs. from a hoard. Rarity-2.

7-D. (V-6.) Same obverse as last. Reverse: Berry about touches base of first S. Obverse with late cracks as above. Low Rarity-4. Quite a few Uncs., many flat strikes.

8-E. (V-4.) TY too low, B E apart, last star just touches bust point. Reverse: Outer berry between UN. Later, crack above TY; rim break at TY, crack extends through four adjacent stars. Often flat in centers. Many Uncs. High Rarity-3.

So far as we know there has never been a complete set of the 14 varieties of this design, but some of the rarities may turn up identified only as "1795," as formerly with the cents, half cents, and larger silver.


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