There are some dates we just can’t explain. The 1853 half cent may be one of those dates. Its relatively small mintage was larger than average for the period, yet the 1853 shows up in surprisingly large numbers in top grades. It appears there are no hoards that can be positively identified.
In 1853, the half cent was doomed. Officials were looking for a way to make a new cent that the public would accept. If they could get past that hurdle, the large cent would be replaced and the half cent would simply be discontinued.
That said, the half cent always seemed to have a strange way of bouncing back from the brink of being discontinued. While the clock was winding down on the denomination, there was still production in 1853.
For most years in the 1850s the mintages were around 50,000, but not in 1853. The total somehow managed to reach 129,624. Now that total can be read a couple different ways. It was safely larger than the other dates of the 1850s. In fact, it was more than double the 1855, which was the next largest at 56,500. On the other hand, the total was less than half the total of the 1909-S Indian Head cent, which was the lowest mintage cent from 1811 to the present day.
We must also keep in mind that there was no well-developed coin market at the time. There were a few collectors so a few examples would have been saved, but the dealers of the day were not about to set aside any significant numbers.
So, realistically, there should be some numbers of the 1853 available in assorted grades today. That’s certainly true in G-4 where it lists for $52. It is probably better than that, but the demand for G-4 half cents is not that strong.
Where the situation gets interesting is in Mint State. There would naturally be a small number of examples of the 1853 to be found in Mint State but not numbers like those seen at the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. It has seen 165 in MS-64 plus another 121 in MS-63 and 96 in MS-65. They even report four in MS-67.
The numbers at the Professional Coin Grading Service are high as well with nearly 100 examples being reported both in MS-63 and in MS-64, with examples reported through MS-66. There is a known hoard of the 1855, and it is the only date that seems similarly available at PCGS.
The expectation has to be that there was a hoard somewhere of the 1853, but there are no such stories.
The 1853 lists for $195 in MS-60, which is basically the same price as the other dates of the period. It would seem that it should be slightly less since its numbers are greater. In addition, there is not a regularly listed MS-65, but the 1853 is available in the grade and even in higher grades. Therefore, the wise buyer should look for examples in grades like MS-66 where the numbers are not high but high enough that they can be found without too much trouble.