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Half Cent Use In Commerce

 
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Author Previous TopicReplies: 11 / Views: 306Next Topic  
Pillar of the Community

United States
1238 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  6:05 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add nick10 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
During the era the US Half Cent was minted, what types of goods were so inexpensive that the price could not reasonably be rounded to the nearest cent? Was, say, flour so cheap that few people wanted a full cent's worth of it?
Bedrock of the Community
United States
41876 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  6:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add John1 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Most likely one postage stamp.
John1
( I'm no pro, it's just my humble opinion )
Searched 6.5 +/- Million Cents Since 1971
Pillar of the Community
United States
4197 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  6:32 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jimbucks to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Candy.
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United States
62710 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  6:36 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
From all I've read, a Half Cent in 1800 was worth about 6 cents in today's buying power. Somehow that doesn't seem right, but then, that's about the value of a nickel - and we still mint these!
Pillar of the Community
United States
1989 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  6:50 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add kbbpll to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Many commodities were priced in the tenths of a cent (per lb, gal. etc) and I'm seeing things like a loaf of bread $0.125 and a dozen crackers $0.105 here https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt...25&skin=2021
Maybe it goes back to "pieces of eight" too - "two bits" was a quarter dollar, one bit 12.5 cents. Hard to make change for a bit without the half. But I'm just speculating.
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United States
8384 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  7:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The U.S. Continental Congress in 1786 made the lowest denomination of account in the country the mill or 1/10th of a cent, also 1/1000th of a dollar. Well into the 20th century, States were issuing tokens for payment of taxes in denominations of mills, 1/4 of a cent, 1/5th of a cent, etc. usually in base metals. So there was demand for denominations less than 1 cent. Some examples of these state-issued tokens in lieu of money can be seen for sale here on ebay:
https://www.ebay.com/b/Tax-Tokens/1...7/bn_2313867
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United States
11937 Posts
 Posted 10/24/2021  10:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add GR58 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I always thought the Half Cent was used to make change. When the Spanish real
was legal tender, one real was worth 12 1/2 cents.

Of course items could have been priced down to the Half Cent.
Example - five pounds of flour at five and one Half Cents.
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United States
17555 Posts
 Posted 10/25/2021  10:40 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Conder101 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Found this, a bushel of potatoes in 1825 cost 12 cents. Now a bushels is a LOT of potatoes. I could easily see a merchant selling a small quantity for a small enough amount to make a Half Cent useful.
Gary Schmidt
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United Kingdom
9587 Posts
 Posted 10/25/2021  11:19 am  Show Profile   Check NumisRob's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add NumisRob to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
In "The Complete Book of United States Coin Collecting" (1976), Norman M Davis gives a few examples of prices ending in half-cents:
- A circulating library catalog for twelve-and-a-half cents (1808)
- A pair of shoes for sixty-two-and-a-half cents (1840)
- Candy for twelve-and-a-half cents per box (1841)
- Souchong tea for sixty-two-and-a-half cents per pound (1844)
He also says that the coins were useful in making change for the Spanish real, which was worth twelve-and-a-half cents. but that some people did not like to admit being 'poor' by using half-cents! He adds that by 1859 most people had acquired the habit of disregarding fractions and did expect to receive them in change, and that they were used most in large cities.
Edited by NumisRob
10/25/2021 11:21 am
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106294 Posts
 Posted 10/25/2021  11:38 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
From all I've read, a Half Cent in 1800 was worth about 6 cents in today's buying power. Somehow that doesn't seem right, but then, that's about the value of a nickel - and we still mint these!
Agreed.
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106294 Posts
 Posted 10/25/2021  11:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I always thought the Half Cent was used to make change. When the Spanish real was legal tender, one real was worth 12 1/2 cents.
Good to see you again, GR58!


Quote:
He also says that the coins were useful in making change for the Spanish real, which was worth twelve-and-a-half cents.
Looks like a good reason to have one then.

Which means today there is no reason for the cent to remain, while the nickel can be justified by the quarter existing.

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United States
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 Posted 10/25/2021  5:59 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ExoGuy to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Of all the Spanish coins that freely circulated stateside in the early 1800's, the two real piece was by far THE most commonly seen denomination. The fact that so many of these two-bit pieces were in circulation is evidenced by the large numbers that were stamped by contemporary merchants. Likewise, a great many Half Cents were stamped, too.
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