The entire nation fell in love the very moment it set eyes on the 90% silver Liberty Seated Half Dollar, a design mastered by United States Mint engraver, Christian Gobrecht. It was actually one of five denominations to feature this beautiful design, with the other coins being the Half Dime, Dime, Quarter and Silver Dollar. All Liberty Seated Half Dollars were produced using the Mint’s fairly new steam-powered press, so they were generally of higher quality than most of the previous coins minted for circulation.
Numerous variations were minted throughout the series, which lasted from 1839 to 1891. When initially released, the Liberty Seated Half Dollar depicted a seated image of Liberty, facing left. Her right hand is resting on a shield that has been inscribed LIBERTY and her left hand is holding a staff with a Liberty cap. Thirteen stars encircle the figure, with the mintage year below. On the reverse is an eagle with widespread wings displayed behind a shield. The bird has three arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOL. surround the eagle.
In 1839, the first year of issue, the Philadelphia Mint produced around two million Liberty Seated Half Dollars in two major versions. The original coins depict Liberty with no drapery by her elbow, whereas the next batch of strikes shows a fold of drapery on that part of her body. It can be hard to determine whether you have a “No-Drapery” Liberty Seated Half Dollar because many have undergone excessive wear, and has resulted in this version being extremely scarce in all grades and conditions.
After reducing the amount of silver in its coins in 1853, the United States Mint added arrows either side of the date on the obverse and placed rays on the reverse. The rays behind the eagle were removed the very next year in 1854 but the arrows stayed on the coin for three years. Liberty Seated Half Dollars featuring both the arrows and rays are one-year type pieces struck at the mints of Philadelphia and New Orleans. The coins minted with arrows (arrow only type coins) in 1854 were struck at Philadelphia and New Orleans. Both of these mints also produced the arrow type coins in 1855, along with the San Francisco Mint.
Another major version was released in 1866 when a scroll inscribed IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse of the coin. This change took place as a result of the Act of March 3, 1865, authorizing all silver coins above the dime to include the motto. The banner was placed above the eagle and remained on the coin throughout the rest of the series.
The United States Mint added arrows beside the date on the obverse again in 1873 and 1874, just like it did back in 1853. This change signified a slight increase in the weight of the coins. Some of the 1873 Liberty Seated Half Dollars do not feature arrows either side of the date though. All coins from 1873 without arrows also come in two major varieties including the “Closed 3” and “Open 3” pieces. The “Closed 3” variety shows very narrow spacing between the ends of the number 3 from 1873, and the “Open 3” strikes display the 3 with much wider spacing.
Regardless of condition, all Liberty Seated Half Dollars are considered classic U.S. coins that are eagerly sought by coin enthusiasts near and far. Produced over the course of more than 50 years, collectors can enjoy finding pieces struck at four different mints including Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S) and Carson City (CC).
Liberty Seated Half Dollars are generally collected by date, type or mintmark because completing a full set with a normal budget is near-impossible. The rarest piece has to be the 1853-O variety without the motto, arrows and rays, with only 4 known to exist. 1873 “Open 3” Liberty Seated Half Dollars are also challenging to find, as well as all strikes from 1866 to 1873. Finding a high grade coin with both the arrows and rays will be difficult to achieve too. Proofs were made from 1858 but few examples exist for the earlier dates.
If you’re keen to add Liberty Seated Half Dollars to your holding, you can find a range of valuable specimens at Capital Gold Group. For further expert advice or more information about making a purchase, please feel free to contact us today.