There are lots of odd things in the world. Some animals are odd. The duck-billed platypus is an odd animal. Is it a duck or is it a platypus? What is a platypus anyway? Can it quack like a duck? Tastes can be odd. Broccoli on pizza is odd. Pizza is delicious and broccoli is not. Why ruin pizza with a vegetable? Words can be odd, too. Numismatics is an odd word. It is hard to spell and most people don’t even know what it means. Not only is the word numismatics odd, but coins were also minted in odd denominations. Some odd denominations include half cents, two cents, three cents and twenty cents. Like the duck-billed platypus, odd tastes, and numismatics, these odd denominations are very interesting. Let’s review the half cent first.
Back in 1793 when the first half cent was minted, people probably did not think it was odd because you could actually buy things with it. Today it seems very odd because you can’t even buy many things for a cent. Some people even throw cents away because they don’t have much value. There are five types of U.S. half cents. All types were made of copper and all were minted at the Philadelphia mint. The five types are:
Liberty Cap, Head Facing Left – This type was only minted in 1793. The obverse depicts Lady Liberty with a liberty cap resting on a liberty pole. The reverse depicts the denomination and a wreath. This is the rarest type of half cent and is very expensive.
Liberty Cap, Head Facing Right – This type was minted from 1794 – 1797. The obverse is very similar to the previous type, but Lady Liberty faces right and the liberty cap is enlarged. The reverse is also similar, but the wreath is slightly different.
Draped Bust – This type was minted from 1800 – 1808. The obverse depicts a different portrait of Lady Liberty without the liberty cap. The reverse is similar to the last type, but once again the wreath is slightly different.
Classic Head – This type was minted from 1809 – 1836. The obverse depicts a beautiful portrait of Lady Liberty with liberty written on her head band. Thirteen stars surround Lady Liberty, representing the thirteen original colonies. The reverse, once again, depicts a slightly different wreath.
Braided Hair – This type was minted from 1840 – 1857. The obverse depicts a different portrait of Lady Liberty and the reverse depicts another slightly different wreath.
The two cent piece is another odd denomination. It was only minted in Philadelphia and was made of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. It was minted from 1864 – 1873. During some of that period, the Civil War was being fought. This was the first U.S coin to have the motto “In God We Trust” on it. The coin was designed by James B. Longacre. Longacre’s design features a shield on the obverse. This shield symbolizes strength and unity which were two important themes during the Civil War.
The three cent piece is also an odd denomination. It was minted to pay for postage which cost three cents. It was sometimes called a “trime”. There are two types of three cent pieces. The first type had 3 varieties. All were small coins with a 14mm diameter. All were minted in Philadelphia:
Variety 1 was minted from 1851 – 1853 and was made of 75% silver and 25% copper. It was also minted in New Orleans. The obverse depicts a large star with a Union shield in the middle. The reverse depicts a Roman numeral three with the letter C around it. It has thirteen stars for the thirteen original colonies.
Variety 2 was minted from 1854 – 1858 and was made of 90% silver and 10% copper. The design is very similar to variety 1, except for borders surrounding the obverse star and an olive sprig and arrows added to the reverse.
Variety 3 was minted from 1859 – 1873 and was made of 90% silver and 10% copper. The design is very similar to variety 2, except the extra borders surrounding the obverse star have been removed.
The second type of three cent piece was minted from 1865 – 1889. It was only minted in Philadelphia and is called the nickel three cent piece because it was made of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The obverse depicts Lady Liberty and the reverse depicts the Roman numeral three with a wreath around it.
Finally, the twenty cent piece is an odd denomination. It was only minted from 1875 – 1878, but was minted in Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco. It was made of 90% silver and 10% copper. Senator John P. Jones of Nevada thought this denomination was needed because of a shortage of small change in the West. This coin failed because people confused it with the quarter. The obverse depicts a seated liberty design. The reverse depicts an eagle similar to the Trade Dollar.
In conclusion, these odd coin denominations are all very interesting, like the duck-billed platypus and the word numismatics. All coin collections should include some odd denominations because odd is interesting. So, try something odd, just don’t blame me if you ruin your pizza with broccoli!
United States Coinage A Study by Type by Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett
A Guide Book of United States Coins 68th Edition 2015