The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 20, May 19, 2019, Article 2


In March, Bill Eckberg gave us a preview of his new Half Cent book. The preorder period has passed and the book is now available. This is an important new work on the topic. If you're a member of NBS, ANA, EAC or C4, take advantage of your discount. See below for details. -Editor

The Half Cent book cover Early American Coppers (EAC) is proud to announce the May 1, 2019 publication of The Half Cent, 1793-1857: The Story of America's Greatest Little Coin, by William R. Eckberg. EAC's second book, it is an important new reference on one of the first denominations coined by the United States of America.

This book tells the story of the half cent from its antecedents and models through its first release in 1793 to its end in 1857. Why did we ever have such a small denomination, anyway? Who made them? When were they made? How many are known of each variety? How are the coins graded today? All of these questions and more are clearly addressed.

This hard cover book is 8½ x 11" and profusely illustrated in full color with high resolution photos. All business strike half cent obverses and reverses are illustrated by full color 3.5" photos.

Because of the way they were made, and because they were the money of the people, half cents have a charm and character that few other denominations can have, and this charm and interest come through clearly in the book.

Eckberg says he wrote the book because much new research about the coins' design, engraving and manufacture has been developed since the Cohen and Breen books of 35 years ago, and that has allowed him to correct a number of misconceptions about the series and other early coins of the U.S. Mint. This research, much of it by the author, has come from the study of early Mint documents and the coins themselves. His study of the early half cents' manufacture has provided important new insights into the operation of the early U.S. Mint and into how other denominations were created as well.

Dr. Harry E. Salyards, editor of Penny-Wise, the quarterly journal of EAC, writes: "until now, the half cent has lacked an author able to write in an engaging conversational style while incorporating solid research evidence. As a trained scientist and lifelong teacher, Bill Eckberg is well suited to become the first to do so. Among the literature of early American copper as a whole, we have had homey narratives littered with pseudoscience, and ex-cathedra pronouncements aplenty. We have also had way too much 'history' written in the past subjunctive: narratives introducing each unsupported assertion with a phrase such as, 'Surely there would have been. . .'

"You will find none of that sort of thing here. What you will find is the voice of an enthusiastic collector who has made some unexpected discoveries over the course of his thirty years' pursuit of the American half cent-a fascinating and still underappreciated series."

Every collection of U.S. coins should contain at least a few half cents. Scarcer as a denomination than the key Lincoln cent, the 1909-S VDB, they are truly rare coins. Yet, most half cents are remarkably affordable to the average collector. A U.S. series that is both rare and affordable? Yes! Still, most collectors only know them as type coins, if at all. This book will serve as an interesting and informative introduction to the series for those who are unfamiliar with it and will provide enough new knowledge to satisfy even the most advanced specialists.

The book is available from . The cover price is $125, but members of EAC, Colonial Coin Collectors Club, Numismatic Bibliomania Society and the American Numismatic Association may order it for $95 plus shipping. For quantities of 10 or more, please contact The print run is limited to 500 copies plus 10 in a special hand-bound edition in black leather.


Here's an early report from Ray Williams, former President of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4). -Editor

At EAC Dayton, I purchased the new Half Cent book By Bill Eckberg. I did so not because of an interest in Half Cents, but because the author is a friend. The title is The Half Cent 1793-1857 The Story of America's Greatest Little Coin. The book sat in my car for 10 days after returning from Dayton, along with all the other A/V equipment and table supply boxes. I sat down this afternoon with a little time to kill, and opened the book. The preface reminded me a bit of how Sheldon hooked me with his description of making out the old coppers at the kitchen table. Bill hooks the reader by his relating his early collecting experiences.

Before the beautifully photographed descriptions of all the die varieties, Bill covers all the aspects of Half Cents that a collector (I) would want to know.

What really makes the book are two awesome coins plated on page 16! (mine - LOL!) But seriously, the author has replaced Cohen numbers with alpha-numeric die variety designations, which follow die emission sequence.

With Vermont Coppers, Ryder designated die varieties with numbers, just as Cohen did with the Half Cents. Ken Bressett reclassified Vermont varieties by numbering obverses and lettering reverses. Because Ryder varieties were familiar to all, it's taking way too long for the more accurate Bressett varieties to take over. It is my sincere hope that the Eckberg variety system is accepted in a timely manner with catalogers, collectors & grading services.

I'm happy I purchased the book and will attempt to attribute the few Half Cents I've found metal detecting, and maybe I might look to buy a Half Cent when I get to the GSNA Convention going on right now. Oh... If you want to know more about this book, check out:

For more information, or to order, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: THE HALF CENT, 1793-1857 (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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