Seated Liberty Half Dime

Posted by on February 16, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Seated (1837-1853) 1.34 90% silver, 10% copper
Seated (1853-1873) 1.24 90% silver, 10% copper
BS 1838HalfDimenodrapery 300x149 Seated Liberty Half Dime

1838 Seated Liberty Half Dime

The Seated Liberty Half Dime series was struck in 1837 thru 1873.  Christian Gobrecht designed the Seated Liberty Half-Dime.  The obverse was taken from a painting by Thomas Sully, first in 1835 for the silver dollar.  In 1837 the Seated Liberty was adapted not only for the half-dime, but also for the dime, quarter and even the half dollar.  The Gold Rush and the coming of the Civil War had a great effect on the price of silver and caused Congress to change the weight of these four denominations of coins to conserve silver.  There are differences in designs with these to distinguish the different weights and the amounts of surface area for these silver coins.  The ratio of silver changed to 90% silver and 10% copper just prior to this series.

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SC Seated Liberty Half Dime 5364668500 e0fc00a6db z 284x300 Seated Liberty Half Dime

Toned 1869 Half Dime, PCGS PR64 (photo by Northern Lights Numismatics*)


The silver Seated Liberty Half Dime had its weight changed twice, and has five design variations.  The half-dimes are all 15.9mm in diameter with a reeded edge.

Type I)  ‘No Stars on Obverse’  These were minted in 1837 and 1838. Liberty is seated on a rock in a robe with a staff in her left hand and a cap on a staff.  Her right hand rests on a shield that has “LIBERTY” engraved across it.  The date is underneath (there are large and small dates).

The reverse has “HALF” and “DIME” stacked in the center. Mint marks appear directly this.  Minting started in Philadelphia (these have no mint mark) in 1837 and New Orleans (these have an ‘O’ mint mark) strikes started in 1838.  A wreath encircles this and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” encircles the outer part of the coin.  These weigh 1.3 grams.

SC 1848 Seated Liberty Half Dime 3484287423 66d53e690f z 300x300 Seated Liberty Half Dime

Toned 1848 Half Dime obverse (photo by ThreeIfByBike*)

Type II)  ‘Obverse with Stars’ were minted in Philadelphia from 1838 and New Orleans from 1839 both to 1853(New Orleans skipped some years) Still weighing 1.3 each, nothing was changed except the addition of thirteen stars encircling the obverse.

Type III)  ‘Arrows at Date’ (1853-1855) All silver coins were diminished in weight in 1853.  The silver half-dimes weigh 1.2 grams.  An arrow was added to each side of the date to point this out.

Type IV)   ‘Obverse with Stars’ (1856 to 1859) the same design as above, but at a lower weight of 1.2 grams.

Type V)   ‘Obverse with Legend’ (1860 to 1873) the stars are removed from the coin and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” appears on the obverse and no longer on the reverse which retains the “HALF DIME”, mint mark, and wreath (now enlarged to fill the field) and are still at the 1.2 grams weight.

1860 was the last striking of these silver Seated Liberty Half Dime coins from the New Orleans Mint which was temporarily closed in 1861 not to be reopened until 1879 because of trouble brewing with the South and the coming Civil War.  In 1863 the San Francisco Mint (designated with the ‘S’ mint mark) starts to strike these half-dimes.  In 1872 and 1873 the ‘S’ mint mark is under the wreath, instead of the “DIME”.

The San Francisco Mint was opened in 1854 and several denominational first strikes were supposedly put in the Old San Francisco Mint’s cornerstone in 1870.  There was thought only one 1870 S coin minted and it was to be put in this cornerstone however an 1870 S (thoroughly examined) turned up in 1978!

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