Seated Liberty Half Dollars

Posted by on February 13, 2012
Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Seated (1853-1873, 1875-1891) 12.44 90% silver, 10% copper
Seated (1873 & 1874) 12.5 90% silver, 10% copper

BS 1853 half dollar arrows rays obv 300x149 Seated Liberty Half Dollars

1853 Seated Liberty Half Dollar with arrows obverse and rays

The Seated Liberty Half Dollars were minted from 1839 to 1891.  These 30.6 millimeter diameter silver coins weigh 13.36 grams from 1839 to 1853 (Type I) and changed to 12.4 grams from 1853 to 1873 (Types II, III, IV, V) then 12.5 grams in 1873 to 1891 (Types VI and VII) with a content of 90% silver and 10% copper all have a reeded edge.

The Seated Liberty Half Dollars were struck in Philadelphia with no mint mark during the whole series’ run except 1853 Type I but including various numbers of Proofs for every year and Type including a unique Proof silver coin in 1866 without the Motto.

(Article continued below auctions...)
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Strikes in New Orleans having “O” started in 1840 through 1861, with Proof strikes in 1852 then again in 1861, about 5 Proof coins were struck.

San Francisco “S” starting striking these in 1855 to 1878 and Carson City “CC” started striking the Seated Liberty Half Dollars in 1870 through 1878.

The obverse was based on Thomas Sully’s painting and adapted by Christian Gobrecht with modifications done by Robert Ball Hughes and executed by James Barton Longacre.  The reverse was designed by Christian Gobrecht based on earlier US heraldic eagle coin designs.

There are a total of 7 variations of this coin.  All have the characteristics of Type I; ‘without Motto on reverse’ struck from 1839 to 1853.

The obverse has Liberty Seated on a rock in a flowing gown.  Liberty has a staff in left hand with a cap on it and her right hand rests on a shield with “LIBERTY” engraved on it.  The date is underneath and thirteen stars encircle the top of this silver coin.

The reverse has a bald eagle looking left with wings spread and a national shield on its chest.  An olive branch is clutched in its right claw, and arrows in its left. If there is a mint mark it will be under the eagle.

Type II ‘With Arrowheads at Date, and Rays on Reverse’, struck in 1853 was made to distinguish the change of weight.  Congress had passed a Coin Act in 1853 to decrease the weight of four of the silver coins do to a great rise in silver prices.  The obverse has an arrow head pointing out on either side of the date.  The reverse has rays all around the eagle.

Type III ‘With Arrowheads at Date, Without rays on Reverse’ the strikes for 1854 and 1855 didn’t have the rays on the reverse, but kept the arrowheads by the date.

Type IV resumes the original design, still at the new weight. These were struck from 1856 to 1866.

There was much of the horror lingering after the Civil War.  The Secretary of the Treasury found inspiration from Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner’s” line, “And let this be our motto, in God is our trust.”  After many renditions were tried “In God We Trust” was selected. The Motto was officially adopted by Congress for coins large enough to carry it on March 3, 1865.

Type V ‘With “In God We Trust” on the Reverse’, the motto was adopted after a number of variations were tried to best fit and convey the general atmosphere of the United States during the Civil War era.  On the reverse, “IN GOD WE TRUST” is on a ribbon banner is added above the eagle.  This persists through the rest of the Seated Liberty Half Dollars.

Type VI ‘With Arrowheads’, Congress changed the weights of the coins effected in 1853 as silver prices stabilized, and new domestic silver mines’ productions were found, primarily the Comstock Lode.  These were struck in 1873 and 1874.

Type VII “With Motto Design Resumed”, from 1875 until the end of the series through 1891, the new weight is struck as Type V.

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