Rob Guth: The United States minted Half cents intermittently between 1793 and 1857. While this unusually denomination might seem useless today, it was an important part of our monetary system back when working wages were $1 per 10-hour day.
The Liberty Cap Half Cent came in two different versions: the Head Left (issued in 1793 only) and the Head Right (issued from 1792 to 1797). The 1793 Half cent is a scarce date and was one of the very first coins issued by the U.S. Mint. The rarest date in the Liberty Cap series is the 1796.
Richard Giedroyc: Small Cent collecting is enjoyed by perhaps more coin collectors than any other field of coins other than Morgan silver dollars. Most are easy to find and, with the exception of some key dates, values are generally modest. Small Cents begin with the Flying Eagle Cents of 1856 to 1858, a short but surprisingly challenging series.
Small Cents are a transition in several respects. Large Cents were still struck through 1857 and the metal composition of the Flying Eagle Cents is not the same as what was used on later issues. Even the thickness and weight of our smaller 1-Cent coin has changed since the first ones appeared. The Large Cent was increasingly unpopular by the 1840s and since the denomination was not legal tender (only silver and gold coins were legal tender in the United States), many merchants and banks refused to accept the coins. Others accepted the Large Cents at deep discounts. What was worse, by 1851, it was costing the Mint $1.06 to strike a Dollar’s worth of 1-Cent coins. Negative seignorage was at hand (seignorage is the profit the Mint makes between the cost of manufacturing a coin and its face value)!
The diameter of the Large Cent was modeled after the British Penny denomination. As early as 1837, a New York dentist, Dr. Lewis Feuchtwanger, proposed a Small Cent of what he called “argentan” or “American silver” (actually German silver composition). Feuchtwanger Cents are collectible in their own right but are generally not included in a collection of U.S. Small Cents. As the cost of producing Large Cents exceeded their value, experimental Cent patterns and various proposals for a practical metal composition for a Small Cent began to be explored. As Large Cent blanks became not only expensive but almost unavailable, Mint Director James R. Snowden decided to strike a Small Cent of 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel at a weight of 4.67 grams (Large Cents have a weight of 10.89 grams and are composed of pure copper beginning in 1795).
Snowden didn’t choose this mix at random. He was being lobbied heavily by Joseph Wharton (and his monopoly of nickel mines) to use an alloy including this Nickel. The flying eagle design appearing on the reverse of the Gobrecht Silver Dollars of 1836 to 1839 was adopted by Snowden for the new Small Cent. The wreath on the reverse of the new Small Cents was borrowed from the reverse design on the Gold Dollar and the $3 coin denominations designed by James B. Longacre. It is interesting to note that initially, the Secretary of the Treasury (rather than Wharton) had the decision -making power regarding the coin design and that there was no Act passed by Congress in 1856 authorizing a Small Cent.
Snowden ordered about 1,000 1856 Flying Eagle Cents struck without official authorization. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, all 1856 Flying Eagle Cents may be considered to have been illegally struck and issued (as with the 1804 Silver Dollar and the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel). However, the Secret Service probably never will, but would have the legal right to, seize these coins.
It is difficult to determine how many 1856-dated Flying Eagle Cents were struck. At least 634 were given to politicians and other well-connected people. During 1858 and 1859, more were restruck using the original dies. Not all restrikes can be differentiated from the original strikes. It is known that collector George W. Rice at one time owned 756 of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent. Considering that many of the Rice specimens came from circulation, there were undoubtedly more struck. Collector John Beck accumulated 531 coins of the same date.
The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is usually divided into three main varieties: 1) the original pieces struck for Mint and government purposes in 1856 and early 1857, 2) the first restrikes of 1858 sold to collectors, and 3) the questionable second restrikes of 1860.
Most collectors will be content with a single 1857 example, however, there are several varieties of this date also to consider. These are the rare “Style of 1856” variety (with a squared O in OF and other diagnostics), and the so-called regular variety. Other minor varieties also exist. These can be identified through specialized coin catalogs on the subject. Proofs, as well as Uncirculated business strikes, exist.
The 1857 issue was struck following the Act of Feb. 21, 1857 authorizing Small Cents. Unlike the 1856 issue, that of 1857 is officially authorized. The 1857 Flying Eagle Cents were very popular with the public and saved in large quantities. The coins were so popular, the Mint set up booths in the Mint yard to sell the coins to the public. The coin is available in many grades at reasonable prices. Clashed die specimens may be the result of night watchmen at the Mint illegally experimenting with coin dies (these same watchmen were responsible for some 1804 Silver Dollar restrikes).
There are two popular major varieties of the 1858 Flying Eagle Cent often collected alongside the 1856 and 1857 coins to complete a set. In fact, there are other minor varieties, but these are for the specialist. The two major varieties, Large Letters and Small Letters, are reasonably easy to identify. The difference in the lettering in the AM of AMERICA is obvious. As in 1857, there are Proof and business strikes of the date to be collected. There is also an important 1858/7 overdate rarity only discovered in recent years. This overdate is believed to be a refurbished 1857 die with the 8 added later.
Like the Large Cent, the Small Cent was not legal tender, so it should have come as no surprise that it, too, would be rejected by bankers and merchants.
No one knows for certain why Snowden quickly changed from the Flying Eagle to the Indian Head design, but the difficulty of getting good strikes of the former may have been a factor. Collectors today will find a typical weakness on the eagle’s tail feathers even on Mint State specimens and regardless of the date. Fully struck tail feathers are exceptions that often command significant premiums.
In 1690 the Province of Massachusetts Bay created “the first authorized paper money issued by ay government in the Western World”. It was issued to pay for military expeditions during King William’s War. Many other colonies followed suite and began issuing their own paper money as a result.
The colonies paper bills or “bills of credit” were fiat money or currency without an intrinsic value that has been established as money. It does not have a use value and has value only because the government maintains its value or because parties engaging in exchange agree on its value. It was used as an alternative to commodity more and representative money. Commodity money being precious metals such as gold or silver and representative money represents a claim on a commodity which could be redeemed to a greater or lesser extent. Unfortunately though when colonial governments issued too many bills of credit or failed to properly tax them out of circulation, inflation was imminent.
In New England and the southern colonies, this was the most prevalent as they weren’t frequently at war as the Middle Colonies had been. Pennsylvania, however was responsible for not issuing too much currency and today remains a prime example in history as a successful government-managed monetary system. Pennsylvania’s paper currency was secured by land and generally maintained its value against gold from 1723 until the Revolution began in 1775. This depreciation was incredibly harmful to creditors in ZGreat Britain when colonists paid their debts with money that had or would eventually lose its value.
Colonial and post-Revolutionary currency had many stages of development during the colonial and post-Revolutionary history of the United States. The U.S. mint wasn’t able to make enough of them though and the use of foreign coins like the Spanish dollar were widely used. Sometimes colonial goverments issued paper money and the British parliment passed currency acts in 1751, 1764, and in 1773 that regulated colonial paper money.
During the American Revolution as states became indepenet of Great Britian it freed them from the British monetary regulations and the Continental Congress began issuing paper money to pay for military expenses. Unfortunately both state and Continental currency depreciated rapidly and became practically worthless at the end of the war. This was caused by the government printing too much paper money.
The three most common Colonial currency used was specie (coins) , paper money and commodity money. Commodity money was used to purchase goods such as tobacco , animal pelts , and food. Cash in the colonies was denominated in either pounds, shillings, and pence. There was no standard though. A Massachusetss pound was not equivalent to a Pennsylvania pound sterling. This resulted in the use of Spanish or Portugeuse money. The Spanish dollar was so prevalent in the newly created United States , it led to the United states being denominated in dollars rather than the British pound.
Now that you have your gear, you need to find a location to metal detect. Any successful metal detectorist will tell you that research will save you time and energy and can greatly increase your chances of finding treasure
Visit your local library. There you can find information about nearby places. Most libraries will have a section that references materials with each city’s establishment date, the first buildings, popular locations, and maps of no longer used roads. Try using old maps and even new maps. Google Earth and other online maps are a wonderful reference for finding long-forgotten locations. If you come across a location that is private property be sure to contact the owner and request permission to metal detect their land. Also be aware that metal detecting on federal lands, historical sites and native American Indian burial grounds is a felony.
Search online for metal detecting forums or message boards. Usually these have metal detecting finds stories and can be a great resource for finding places to metal detect. You can also find great advice and tips for metal detecting beginners this way. It’s also a great way to make friends to go metal detecting with.
Rechargeable batteries will save time, cause less waste, and over time are much more affordable than non-rechargeable batteries. Most metal detectorists use rechargeable batteries and you should too! It just makes sense. Use them for your pinpointer too! Let’s look at some of our options below.
The Garrett rechargeable battery kit comes in at under $30 online. It offers a wall charger and comes with 2 9V Ni-MH batteries. This charger can be used with any Garrett metal detector that uses 9V batteries. This also works for other metal detectors that make use of the 9V batteries. The wall charger has an LED indicator light to let the user know when the unit is fully charging. Charging generally takes 8-10 hours for a full charge.
Metal detectorists hunting beaches or in other sandy areas definitely need to have a sand scoop. It is vital for this environment as it allows to user to easily sift through sand to find their item. Whether you’re hunting the dry sand, the surf at low tide or ankle deep in salt water you will need a sand scoop.
A major thing to consider when buying a sand scoop is will your equipment resist the harsh elements. Sand scoops generally come in plastic , aluminum , or steel. Let’s take a look at a few options.
First off we’ll look at the Garrett Metal Sand Scoop. It comes in at 10 x 8 x 6 and weighs about 2 pounds. While 2 pounds might not sound like much; do keep in mind that you’ll be lugging it around the entire hunting trip. It comes with a short handle and is incredibly durable. The shorter handle allows the user to easily sift through sand to find their item. The shovel blade itself is very sharp and cuts through the sand with ease. It comes in at under $40 and if you’re hunting the beach or any other sandy environment it is an ideal tool.
Next up we’ll check out a plastic sand scoop option. Pro Hand Held Plastic Sand scoop comes in at a very affordable $13. It measures 14 x 3 x 5.5 and weighs only 11.8 ounces. The sifting holes are specifically designed to be smaller diameter than most coins. It does not offer sifting holes on the sides though. For being made of plastic it is surprisingly durable. I would recommend this scoop if you’re only an occasional beach hunter.
Finally, let’s look at an aluminum option. Whites Aluminum Sand Scoop weighs only 1 pound and it 12.6 x 9.8 x 7.9 inches. It offers a rubber grip and a reversible handle. The reversible handle is a really great feature as it gives users to option to dig in any direction. It works well in dry or wet sand and offers sifting holes on the bottom and sides. While the aluminum lessens the weight of the tool it isn’t quite as strong as steel. Avoid rocks are other materials other than sand or risk denting the shovel scoop.
Having the proper tool for the job is ever apparent with sand scoops. Be sure to find the right job for you and your environment. Next up we’ll take a look at protective gear for your metal detector.
By now you’ve spent a good bit of money finding the perfect metal detector , a pinpointer , digger , and shovel but how are you going to carry all this and still be comfortable while hunting? The answer is clear! Find the best metal detecting bag you can find! Today we’ll look at a the relic metal detector pouch.
The Relic Elite Metal Detector pouch is always open. This allows the user to easily contain their tools while also leaving them easily accessible. The outside of the pouch offers a zippered pocket that can be used for smaller items such as your car keys or cell phone. On the inside of the pouch it has a 2 smaller pockets which can used for toothbrushes or other minor items. The bottom of the pouch has the option to have a mesh bottom or leather bottom. The mesh bottom while initially may not be the best option for users in more rugged environments but it does allow sand,mud , or other debris to fall from the items while you’re out hunting. The pouch has an over the shoulder option or a waistbelt option. Made from durable materials the Relic Elite Metal Detector Pouch can be found for around $50 online.
Once you’ve acquired your metal detector, your digger or trowel, the next step is finding a proper shovel. Shovels allow the user to dig wider and deeper holes. A proper shovel also allows the user to make a quick and clean recovery of items and allows the user to make less of a mess. This is especially important if you’re hunting in a park or a well-maintained lawn.
Lesche offers over 20 variants on their shovels. This is perfect for picking the correct tool for the job you’re faced with. Today we’ll focus on the Lesche Sampson Shovel.
The Lesche Sampson Shovel is lightweight and not bulky. It’s made from Aircraft quality Steel and is generally half the weight of a regular gardening shovel. It’s also smaller and shorter than your average gardening shovel. Using high quality aircraft steel also will cause less interference for your metal detector. It offers serrated edges that will cut through dirt and roots like a knife through butter.
The blade of the Lesche Sampson is at a right angle and allows the user to easily dig straight down. This produces smaller more exact digs while allowing the user to refill their holes much easier. It also has the option of a ball handle, a loop handle, or a T handle.
Because of it’s lightweight and blade design, using the shovel requires less energy to use. Which ultimately allows the user to hunt longer. Coming in at $70 it will pay for itself!
Next up we’ll check our storage options for our shovel and other equipment..
For the beginner metal detectorist, after acquiring your metal detector the next step is finding the right digger or trowel. Do not make the mistake of buying a cheap digger. The worst thing is being out in the middle of nowhere with a lot of hits and your digger breaking. Most general use trowels or diggers are made for lightweight gardening and simply aren’t durable enough for busting roots, thick weeds, and dry dirt.
One of the most popular digging tools on the market today is the Lesche Digging Tool. It offers a serrated blade on either the right or left side. Typically right-handed users will want the serrated blades on the right side and left-handed users will want the blades on the left side. This digger is specifically made for treasure hunting. Let’s take a closer look at the Lesche Digging tool.
The Lesche Digging Tool offers a large, comfortable, plastic handle. The handle is also ribbed so it doesn’t slide in your hand while digging. The handle is also bright red so its easier to see in the dark. It also offers a handle guard that protects your hand from sharp objects. The natural stabbing motion is also a lot easier on your hands. The blade is made of aircraft-quality steel and is incredibly durable.
The Lesche Digging Tool is 100% American made. It’s manufactured in Bridgeton, NJ and comes with a 5-year warranty. Lesche has been family owned since the 1950s by Walter Lesche and family. The Lesche Digging Tool can be found online for around $45.