Key date United States half cents begins with the early years and the Liberty Cap Type of 1793, with bust of Liberty facing left. This is one of the rarest varieties known, with only 35,334 coins struck for the entire year.
Creating a very expensive hole to fill in a half cent collection, this coin has deterred many from attempting to assemble a collection of these coins. This coin will range in the tens of thousands of dollars, for a middle grade example.
1796 half cents definitely make the grade as a key date coin. With a minuscule 1,390 mint number and those being split between the two types, pole or no pole from the cap, this coin is another deterrent from being able to accomplish the task of completing even a low grade year set of United States half cents.
Key to the year 1797 half cents is an example with a lettered edge, reading two hundred for a dollar around the edge of the coin. This variety can bring 20,000 dollars at auction in mid grade. Lower grades however can still be obtained in the thousand dollar range.
In 1802, there was a die employed, with a 2 cut over the 0 in the date. This obverse die lived through two reverse dies, creating two distinctive die varieties. One containing the reverse from 1800 and one with a second new reverse. These are collected as separate varieties by the advanced collector.
Keys for the series now jumps to 1831 half cents. New dies were brought in for this year and only proofs were struck for collectors. Mint records show the numbers coming in at 2,200 total coins minted, re-strikes are known to exist and demand half the price of the originals. Care should be taken as many counterfeits of this coin exist. Authentication is recommended.
Circulation strikes were minted in fairly large numbers avoiding any keys until the proof years when no circulation strikes were made. This period spans the year 1840 through 1844. All years within this date range have original examples as well as re strike coins. All are rare and all carry about the same value in the 5 to 10 thousand bracket.
The 1857 half cent is the final coin in this series and hold a premium value due to that fact. They are not a rare coin relatively speaking within the set. Collectors do, however, tend to like to own the last year of any type, so collecting these in the highest grade you can afford may be a smart move.
This remains a very difficult area for coin collectors to be a part of as many examples are virtually unknown and others can cost thousands of dollars. A good way to get into these coins is to concentrate on the later types and fill that part of the series. Low grade examples can be had for as little as twenty dollars. There a beautiful coin and everyone should collect at least one key date coin.
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