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The United States Mint produced Half Cents from 1793 through 1857, although somewhat intermittently.  It was the smallest denomination produced by the US Mint.  The Act of April 2, 1792 authorized a half cent containing 5.5 pennyweights of pure copper. The Act of May 8, 1792 enabled the purchase of not more than 150 tons of copper for the striking of cents and half cents.   

While today it is hard to imagine why such a coin existed, back in 1793, a cent and even a half cent had way more buying power than the penny/cent of today.  Back then, Spanish bits were quite popular as a form of currency, so the 1/2 cent was useful for transactions involving items priced in Spanish bits, which was valued at 12 1/2 cents.  Despite that, the half-cent seems it was never really popular.  

Throughout its life, the half cent had 4 different designs.  Five, if you count the change from 1793 to 1794 by switching which way the portrait faced.  Despite a run of over 60 years, although some years none were made, mintage exceeded one million only once, unlike the large cent where mintage often easily exceeded a million pieces a year.   

As copper prices rose, and the need for a 1/2 cent declined (some would argue if there ever was a need), the Coinage Act of February 21, 1857.  

Interesting half cents facts:  

 

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