With the introduction of more precise equipment in the 1830’s, the Mint was finally able to produce high-quality coins in relatively large numbers. It was also in this decade that the Mint commenced production of proof coinage. Proof Classic Head Half Cents (Buy on eBay) were struck for each date of the series from 1831 to 1836. Mintages were extremely limited and ranged from an estimated 18 to 42 pieces, making all survivors rare.
Both proofs and circulation strikes were usually produced from the same pair of dies. As such, the difference between a proof on a less than average polished planchet and an early die state of a business strike on an above average planchet can be minimal. Quality of strike and overall eye-appeal usually serve as the standard for identifying the proofs.
Adding another layer of complexity, the most desirable proof dates of 1831 and 1836 can be found as originals or restrikes. The restrikes can be differentiated from the originals by the use of different reverse dies. The restrikes are believed to have been produced during the years from 1858 to 1861, after the denomination had been discontinued and when coin collecting was becoming more popular.