1796 Liberty Cap, Facing Right Half Cent, w/ Pole

Half cent output at the United States Mint in 1795 was rather robust, when the manually powered screw presses churned out 139,690 pieces of Robert Scot’s Liberty Cap Right design. 1797 was a banner year as well, when 127,840 examples of the lowly denomination were produced.(1)

However, for the in-between year, 1796, the half cent was almost invisible. Numismatists cannot verify the true mintage – estimates range from 1,390 to 6,480 – but are in universal agreement the number is very small.(2)

The saga of the 1796 Liberty Cap, Facing Right With Pole half cent is inextricably linked to that of its half-sister, the 1796 Liberty Cap, Facing Right No Pole half cent.

Despite the best effort of researchers, the surviving population of 1796 half cents is too small to distinguish die states, and therefore the sequence of events involving the production of 1796 half cents is uncertain.(3)

One theory subscribed to by many numismatists is as follows:(4)

  1. As the first 1796 half cent obverse die was being prepared, the pole holding the liberty cap was omitted from the design by the hand punch workman (the bottom of the pole should have been easily seen extending just to the right of Miss Liberty’s neckline). 
  2. During the annealing process, the die unfortunately cracked, bisecting the coin horizontally.
  3. Regardless, the die was put into service and struck a very limited number of coins, explaining why all examples of the “No Pole” variety have an obvious crack across the obverse.
  4. After retiring the cracked die, another obverse die was made, but this time the pole was not omitted. This new uncracked die was paired with the same reverse to strike the “With Pole” variety.

Both 1796 half cents are exceedingly rare, but of the two, the “No Pole” variety is the most elusive.(5)

Fascinating Fact: 1796 was the only year from 1793-1849 when the U.S. Mint coined every denomination authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, from the half cent through $10 eagle.(6)

Since numismatics started gaining popularity in the United States during the 1850’s, the 1796 half cent, with or without the pole, has occupied a seat of honor. As an issue that is rare, unusual, somewhat mysterious, and a product of the early Mint, demand for this unassuming $0.005 coin has always exceeded supply.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 114
? 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: 7.8
? 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.
Click HERE to check for availability on eBay**

review of eBay selection (the HERE link above has a better chance of finding a few of these rare half cents for sale):

1796 Liberty Cap Right half cent, w/Pole Early U.S. key date -- 1796 Liberty Cap Right half cent with Pole
Trendline Avg = 7.52 CLASSIC RARITY
Last updated 1-10-24
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1. Yeoman, R.S. and Garrett, Jeff, et al.  A Guide Book of United States Coins, 75th ed. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2021.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1796 Liberty Cap Half Cent. With Pole.  Aug 2022 Auction.

3. Heritage Auctions.  1796 1/2 C With Pole.  May 2008 Auction.

4. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1796 Liberty Cap Half Cent. With Pole.  Aug 2012 Auction.

5. Heritage Auctions.  1796 1/2 C With Pole.  Jan 2017 Auction.

6. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1796 Liberty Cap Half Cent. With Pole.  Feb 2016 Auction.

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If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.