Guide to U.S. Flowing Hair Half Dimes
The “half disme,” which evolved to “half dime,” was the smallest silver denomination authorized under the Coinage Act of 1792. The very same year, the famous 1792 Half Disme would be produced as the first representative of the denomination and the very first coin struck by the United States government. The Flowing Hair Half Dimes would follow, carrying the dates 1794 and 1795, although all pieces were struck during the latter year. The short-lived series carries great importance as one of the earliest examples of American coinage.
The Flowing Hair Half Dime was designed by Robert Scot. The obverse features the bust of Liberty, facing right. Her head is tilted slightly upwards and her hair flows gently behind. The word LIBERTY appears above, with the date below. There are 15 stars surrounding, arranged eight to the left and seven to the right. The reverse design features an eagle with its wings outstretched, perched on an open wreath. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears around the outer edge of the coin. Notably, the denomination does not appear anywhere within the design, as the Mint considered the coins identifiable by their size and weight.
The first delivery of Flowing Hair Half Dimes occurred on March 30, 1795. All of the coins in this delivery carried the 1794 date and had been produced in February or March of 1795. It seems that production had been expected to begin in the previous year and a number of obverse and reverse dies had been prepared. For an unknown reason, but most likely lack of silver or an unfinished design, the start of production had been postponed until the following year.
The 1794-dated obverse dies would be continue to be utilized for production until they were worn out and replaced by the 1795-dated obverse dies. As the reverse design of the coin remained unchanged, these could be used interchangeably with different dated obverse dies. Production would continue for the remaining months of 1795, until a new obverse design was introduced in the following year. The reverse would not be altered until 1800.
Surviving examples of the Flowing Hair Half Dime are mostly encountered in lower grades with various problems, while high grade specimens with original surfaces are extremely rare. Despite their rarity, these coins are not as expensive as the larger denominations from the same era. Nonetheless, these coins remain in high demand with type set collectors and those pursuing examples of early American coinage.