Representing the final type for the denomination, the Braided Hair Half Cent (Buy on eBay) was introduced in 1840. For the initial years of the series from 1840 to 1848, the coins were produced in proof version only, with both originals and restrikes made. Circulation strikes would only be minted from 1849 to 1857 in relatively limited mintages, although the coins remain readily accessible in circulated grades. Any proof-only as well as any circulation strike issues surviving in higher grades with full red coloration are highly sought by collectors.
The half cent had been an important denomination when first introduced in the 1790’s, however it had fallen into disuse by the mid-19th century. By this time the economy of the country had grown to such a point that the cent now served as the smallest medium of exchange. At the same time, the price of copper had increased making the large cents unprofitable for the Mint to produce. The situation would be rectified by the Coinage Act of 1857. This Act would discontinue the half cent denomination and mark the end of the large cent, replacing the bulky copper pieces with a small sized cent struck in a composition of copper and nickel.
Like many other American coins of the era, the Braided Hair Half Cent was designed by Christian Gobrecht. The design was virtually identical his design used for the large cents, which had been introduced in 1839. The obverse is also closely related to the designs introduced on gold coinage in the late 1830’s. These had also been designed by Gobrecht, who tried to create some uniformity in the nation’s coinage with consistent designs across denominations.
The obverse for the Braided Hair Half Cent features a head of Liberty facing left. The word LIBERTY is inscribed on her hairband, with thirteen stars are around and the date below. The reverse of the coin features a closed wreath, compromising of 27 leaves and 11 berries, with the denomination HALF CENT enclosed. The design of the wreath is loosely based on that of John Reich, who had introduced a similar reverse design on the cents and half cents first struck in the early 19th century. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are placed around the wreath.