Half Dimes, the smallest silver denomination authorized by the Mint Act of April 1792, were not struck from 1806 to 1828. During this time, circulation of virtually all United States federal coinage was sparse, and half dimes were of such small intrinsic value that they were not used for exportation. The need of minor silver coinage was mostly fulfilled by silver coins from around the world, most notably Mexico and South-American countries. On July 4, 1829, coinage of the Capped Bust Half Dime commenced, coinciding with the opening of the second Philadelphia Mint. The new series of half dimes would be produced in reasonably significant quantities from 1829 to 1837, making completion of a set an approachable goal for collectors.
When the Capped Bust Half Dime was introduced in 1829, all silver coins that were struck by the United States Mint featured the same basic design. The design had been introduced on the half dollars in 1807, where it saw its greatest use, but also was used on the quarter dollars starting in 1815, and dimes starting in 1828. While the design on all of these denominations varied slightly, each was based on the work by John Reich, with William Kneass modifying the designs at a later date. Because of their small size, the Capped Bust Half Dimes appear noticeably different than larger denominations.
The obverse, modified by Kneass, featured the head of Liberty, facing left. She wears a Phrygian cap inscribed LIBERTY with long, curling hair beneath and a gown visible near the truncation, secured with a brooch. The date, slightly curved, is directly under the truncation of the bust and comes in various sizes. There are seven stars are before Liberty and six stars behind, for the traditional total of thirteen.
The reverse featured a perched eagle, with its wings spread. A shield is placed at the eagle’s breast and its talons hold an olive branch and bundle of arrows. The denomination, for the first time on these small silver coins, appears below as 5 C. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is on a scroll directly above the head of the eagle, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is spread from left to right wing tip in a curved fashion.