1793 Liberty Cap, Facing Left Half Cent

1793 was the first full year of operation at the Philadelphia Mint. Only two denominations, both of copper, were produced that year -- the half cent and large cent.(1)

The 1793 half cent is of special importance to collectors because it was the first and only issue of the Liberty Cap, Facing Left design type.

Some scholars speculate the Miss Liberty obverse design was based on sketches by the first Mint Director, David Rittenhouse, who was inspired by Augustin Dupre's beautiful Libertas Americana medal of 1782. No one say with certainty who engraved the dies, but Adam Eckfeldt, Robert Birch, Joseph Wright, or Henry Voigt, or some collaboration between them, are likely candidates.(2)

Striking of the half cent began on July 20 and continued intermittently until the Mint closed its doors on September 18 to allow its employees to escape from the yellow fever epidemic engulfing the city of Philadelphia.(3)

When the Mint reopened on November 23, Robert Scot had joined the staff as Chief Engraver. One of his first orders of business was to revamp the half cent. The following year, 1794, Scot’s design, featuring Liberty facing to the right, went into production.

The liberty cap after which this coin is named may not be quite so obvious to some observers. Look behind Liberty's head, and you will see what looks kind of like a stocking cap, sitting atop a pole (at first glance, the cap sort of resembles an oversized bow in Liberty's hair!)

Originally called the Phrygian cap, the liberty cap tradition dates back to ancient times, when liberated slaves wore the conical shaped headgear to signify their freedom. Over the centuries, the liberty cap came to symbolize the concept of freedom and the pursuit of liberty.(4)

During the Revolutionary War era, American colonists foisted the liberty cap upon a pole to rally the cause of independence. This concept was later depicted on numerous United States coins.(5)

Four die marriages were used to strike the mintage of 35,334 Liberty Cap Left half cents. All are approximately equal in availability.(6)

Traditionally, the 1793 half cent has been held in high standing because of its lofty status as the first United States half cent and the singular date of the Liberty Cap, Facing Left type. At least as far back as 1855, this coin has commanded attention, when collector Winslow Howard paid a then sizeable sum of $7.00 to acquire a lot of two 1793 half cent examples in the Pierre Flandin sale, one of the first major numismatic auctions held in the United States.(7)

Value trends for the 1793 half cent from 1950-1990 reflect those of a famous date, but since then prices have grown at a slower pace (although far above items of lesser numismatic significance.) As a bona fide classic rarity, we can someday expect a reawakening of interest in this incredibly important coin.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 1094
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 4.9
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1793 Liberty Cap Left half cent photos Early U.S. copper -- 1793 Liberty Cap Left half cent
Trendline Avg = 7.10 Classic Rarity
Last updated 1-10-24
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1. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent. Head Left.  Aug 2022 Auction.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1793 1/2 C.  Jan 2018 Auction.

3. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent. Head Left.  Aug 2022 Auction.

4. Bama, I.R., The Phrygian Cap: Seldom Discussed Symbols On U.S. Coins in Numismatics.  American Numismatic Association. July 17, 2020.

5. Landrigan, Leslie.  Six Places That Raised a Liberty Pole.  New England Historical Society. 2022.

6. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent. Head Left.  Dec 2020 Auction.

7. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent. Head Left.  Aug 2022 Auction.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.