Happy Thanksgiving (Day After)!
The Liberty Seated Half Dollar is a special coin for many reasons. This design was used on almost every US coin during this time, from the Half Dime to the Dollar. The Seated Liberty Half Dollar, also known as Liberty Seated, was minted from 1839 to 1891 and contained several different varieties. The coin was designed by the infamous Christian Gobrecht, my favorite chief engraver for the Mint. This is one of the coins with the most differences and varieties. All Seated Liberty Half Dollars have a diameter of 30.6 millimeters, and contain 90% silver and 10% copper, as do all other US silver coins, excluding the later date Kennedy Halves. The design, weight, and mints differ greatly depending on the year.
The first variety, minted from 1839 to 1853 in Philadelphia and New Orleans, has a reverse with the words, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; HALF DOL.” A large letter variety was minted from 1842 to 1853. In 1853, rays were added around the eagle on the reverse and arrows were added to the obverse pointing away from the date. Not only was this a design change, but the weight also changed from 13.36 grams to 12.33 grams. In 1854, the Mint removed the rays on the reverse after just one year. They also started production in San Francisco. In 1856, the Mint removed the arrows and changed the design back to how it was originally, but keeping the newer weight of 12.44 grams. In 1866, the Mint changed the coin again to contain the “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto on the reverse above the eagle. In 1873, the arrows by the date were added back to show a change in weight. New Orleans had stopped production for the Union and Carson City began production of Seated Liberty Half Dollars in 1870. The arrows only saw a return for two years, when the coin was replaced by the Barber Half Dollar.
No mint mark – Philadelphia
O – New Orleans
S – San Francisco
CC – Carson City
With the long production of these coins and the frequent changes, there are several key dates, errors, and varieties that are more valuable than others. In 1839, there were two varieties, one with an extra bit of fabric coming off the left elbow and one without. The one without the extra cloth is generally worth a slightly higher premium. In 1840, there were two varieties produced, one with smaller letters on the reverse and one with larger letters. The 1840 Small Letters was minted at the Philadelphia Mint, butt the one with the larger letters was minted at New Orleans but lacked a mintmark. The one with larger letters, often called Medium Letters, is worth considerably more. In 1842, there was again different varieties, one with a small date and one with a larger date. They are worth about the same price. Therre was an 1844-O Doubled Date error and also an error in some 1845-O coins where there was no piece of additional fabric, or drapery. In 1846, there was a Medium Date and a Tall Date and also an interesting error where a 6 was struck above a 6 pointed the wrong way. In 1847, there was a 7 over 6 error, which is one of the most valuable Seated Liberty Half Dollars, easily over $10,000 in About Uncirculated. The 1853-O is the number one rarest Seated Liberty Half Dollar, where only 4 are known. In 1855, there was a very common error where 1855 was struck over 1854. This error does bring a premium of about double. In 1861, the New Orleans Mint struck some as United States coins and others as Confederate coins after Louisiana succeeded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. Even though the motto was added above the eagle in 1866, some were released from the Mint without the motto, which allows them to be worth around $10,000+ in Mint State. The 1870-CC is a key date in the series, with a low mintage and being the first year Carson City began minting these coins. There was an error in 1877 where the 7 was struck over the 6. The 1878-S and 1878-CC are both scare, with very low mintages. The 1878-S can be worth well over $100,000, depending on condition.
Should I Get A Liberty Seated Half Dollar Graded?
PCGS and NGC are the leading companies for coin grading in the world, however, it is also rather pricey to have a coin graded. In practically any condition, the coin is worth at least $40 and is a very sought-after series of classic American coins. If you estimate the coin’s grade to be at least F-12, I would send it in for grading, not considering the date. If you have an error or a scarce date, you should send it in for grading despite the condition. I generally don’t believe CAC, a service that “grades” the grading companies and verifies the grade of the coin, is worthwhile, it definitely is for more valuable coins. I would definitely consider sending any nicer Seated Liberty Half Dollars to CAC. Some people believe that CAC coins bring a premium, which is the case somewhat, but generally, the coin brings a high premium not because of the green bean, but because it’s a great coin.
Every coin is special and individual in their own way and when you learn about a new coin, maybe that will be your next collecting goal!
Yeoman, R S. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2018 Essential Edition: The Official Red Book. Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2017.
"PCGS Online - Estimating Coin Grades Has Never Been Easier." PCGS, www.pcgs.com/photograde/.
Guth, Ron. "CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins." CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins, Collectors Universe Inc., coinfacts.com/.
"NGC Coin Explorer." Online Coin Catalog Search Page - Coin Explorer | NGC, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/.