Capped Bust Half Dime
With the introduction of the Capped Bust Half Dime in 1829, the U.S. five-cent coin finally “took.”
Yes, half dimes had been struck prior to the Capped Bust half dime. There was the Flowing Hair half dime of 1794-95, followed by the Draped Bust half dime struck sporadically (and with tiny mintages) from 1796 to 1805. After that, there was a 24-year silence, with no five-cent pieces struck at all! The U.S. Mint apparently saw little demand, since during that period there was an influx of Spanish-Colonial silver coins into this country, many of which were half-reale coins, the equivalent of 6 and ½ cents in U.S. money.
Finally, in the late 1820’s, the number of good Spanish-Colonial and Mexican silver in circulation began to wane. Once again, there appeared to be a need for a U.S. half dime.
As there was already a Capped Bust half dollar, Capped Bust quarter and Capped Bust dime in circulation, it was only natural to create a Capped Bust half dime. So.. in 1829, the Capped Bust half dime, designed by William Kneass, became the newest Capped Bust silver coin.
The Capped Bust half dime, unlike the Capped Bust quarter and dime, was a model of consistency. This half dime type was struck every year of its nine-year existence. In fact, what was begun with the Capped Bust half dime, continues to this day -—starting with the 1829 Capped Bust half dime, there has been a U.S. five-cent coin struck every year except 1922.
Not only was the Capped Bust half dime struck each year from 1829 to 1837, its production numbers were consistently healthy from year to year. The 1832 half dime is the scarcest of the series, with a mintage of 965,000. All other years, Capped Bust half dimes were struck in the one to two-million range.
There are actually quite a few varieties for so short a series – eight in all. They all have to do with whether the obverse date is large or small, and whether the reverse “5C” is large or small. So you’ll have the 1835 large date, large 5c, the 1835 small date, small 5c…. and so on, with every combination thereof. Mind you, none of these varieties means any extra retail value, save for the 1837 small 5C which retails $33 in Good.
As no date is truly scarce, the Capped Bust half dime may be the most consistently priced of ANY U.S. coin series! Every single date retails $25-$27 in Good, and just $48 in Fine. Even Very Fine examples can be purchased in the $75-$80 range. Think about that: a nice grade U.S. silver coin classic that’s 170 years old, retailing for under $100! That has to be considered a bargain!
Though there are many worn Capped Bust half dimes on the market, nice Fine to Extra Fine can still be found pretty regularly—probably more so than the Capped Bust dimes and quarters. The caveat here is, many of these nice-condition Capped Bust half dimes survive with nice detail, but have damage. Clearly, many were removed from circulation, and pressed into service as earrings, necklace pieces or love tokens. That means you’ll find a fair amount of these half dimes holed, soldered or smoothed out on one side. So if you find a high-grade piece WITHOUT damage, it’s definitely a piece worth owning.
Yes, the Capped Bust half dime was struck to the tune of one to two million each year, but over the past 170 years, many were lost due to meltings or simply due to their tiny size. And remember, they were only struck for nine years, by far the shortest time span of any Capped Bust silver coin. The end for this short-lived classic coin type came midway through 1837, when it was replaced by the Seated Liberty half dime that same year.