The Half Dime is among the smallest of United States silver coins—only the diminutive Three Cent Silver piece of 1851-1873 was tinier. Nonetheless, the coin played an important role in American commerce from the 1790s through the 1870s. Until the Five Cent Nickel eventually replaced it, the Half Dime was perhaps the second most frequently used denomination other than the penny.
There are five basic types of United States Half Dimes:
1792 Half Disme: This issue is technically classified as a pattern coin, but it is widely believed that these coins were struck for circulation. They are among the very first coins made by the first United States Mint. In fact, legend has it that George Washington donated his personal silver service to the Mint so that these coins could be made. Approximately 1,500 pieces were struck of which maybe 150 or so survive today. Note that the denomination was spelled on this coin as “DISME,” which is French for “tenth.” Eventually the spelling was changed to “DIME.”
1794-1795 Flowing Hair Half Dime: This version displays a portrait of Liberty facing right on the obverse and an eagle surrounded by a wreath on the reverse. Both dates are quite scarce but can be found in lower circulated grades with some effort. A few spectacular examples of each date have survived in MS 65 through MS 67 grades.
1796-1805 Draped Bust Half Dime: Other than the 1792 Half Disme, this design type is perhaps the rarest. The design is believed to have been created by Robert Scot and closely resembled the Draped Bust quarters, half dollars and dollars of the same era. All dates from this era are quite scarce but the 1802 is by far the rarest with fewer than a dozen pieces known.
1829-1837 Capped Bust Half Dime: This motif features a portrait of Liberty on the obverse wearing a cap symbolizing freedom. This is a more common design type that can be found in Uncirculated grades relatively easily. Even a few proofs exist. With nice Mint States specimens selling for under $1,000, this is a relative bargain among early United States coins.
1837-1873 Seated Liberty Half Dime: The Seated Liberty version is by far the most common edition of the Half Dime. Mint States examples are plentiful; even Gem Uncirculated pieces can be had for under $1,000. Proofs are relatively plentiful as well. There are some scarcer dates in the 1840s and 1860s, but many issues are quite reasonable