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Notes: the 1500 circulation number is an approximation.
Until twenty to thirty years ago, most coin experts referred to 1792 half dismes as patterns, rather than as regular issues. They are or were listed as patterns in all reference guides for patterns.
The first Philadelphia Mint was not ready for operation until 1793. All 1792 half dismes were struck during a short time in July 1792 in a building owned by John Harper, who ran a business that produced saws.
On July 13, 1792, the entire run of 1500 of them was delivered to Thomas Jefferson, who was then Secretary of State and in charge of the coinage program.This run of 1500 half dismes had a total face value of just seventy-five dollars, a small sum even in 1792.
It is extremely likely that 1792 half dismes were given to influential individuals, including U.S. Congressmen, diplomats and foreign officials. In his encyclopedia of 1988, researcher Breen, on page 153, stated that 1792 half dismes were presented to very important persons (“VIPs”). In Don Taxay’s epic book on The U.S. Mint and Coinage (1966), Taxay, too, indicates that these were given to influential people and Taxay focuses upon an early 19th century document, which cites one of the first U.S. Mint officials as saying that 1792 half dismes were not intended to be used as coins in commerce.
A large percentage of 1792 half dismes did circulate, though years later, after formal production of U.S. half dimes had commenced in 1794. In 1792 and 1793, merchants would not have been familiar with 1792 half dismes, and most would have been suspicious of them, thinking perhaps that they were tokens or pranks. Not many people would even have tried to spend 1792 half dismes in 1792.