Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design was adopted for U.S. silver dollars in 1836; in 1839, the half dollar became the last silver denomination to use it. The coin’s obverse features a full portrait of Lady Liberty seated on a stone, with a heraldic shield marked “Liberty” in her right hand and a pole with a liberty cap on the top in her left. The reverse depicts an eagle similar to that on earlier half dollars.

Seated Liberty half dollars were issued from 1839 to 1891 and went through several variations over this time period. The first change came late in 1839, when an extra piece of drapery was added to Lady Liberty’s left elbow; half dollars without this extra drapery are rare. In 1842, the coin changed again when the letters on its reverse were increased in size.

An even bigger change was introduced in 1853. Because of the sudden increase in the supply of gold thanks to the California Gold Rush, the price of silver compared to that of gold rose dramatically—gold was now less scarce and less valuable. As a result, more and more people were hoarding silver coins and melting them down because their silver content was now worth more than the face value of the coin itself. America faced a shortage of change as coins disappeared from circulation.

To combat this trend, Mint Director George N. Eckert proposed a plan that Congress passed on February 21, 1853. This action reduced the weight of half dollars from 206 ¼ grains to 192 grains: if the coins were lighter (and had less silver), their precious metal content would not be worth more than their face value, which would discourage the hoarding of coins and their destruction.

To indicate the reduced metal content without having to design a new coin, the Mint added two arrows around the date on the obverse, plus rays around the eagle on the reverse. These rays were discontinued in 1854 because the design took too long and cost too much to mint; the arrows were discontinued in 1855. In 1856, half dollars returned to their original Seated Liberty design but maintained their new lighter weight.

A decade later, in 1866, Congress added the motto “In God We Trust” to the reverse in a ribbon above the eagle. This motto first appeared two years earlier on two-cent coins as a result of increased religious fervor during the Civil War, and it would become more and more common on U.S. coins as the years passed.

In 1873 and 1874, Seated Liberty coins again included arrows around the obverse date, this time to indicate an increase in weight from 192 grains to 192.9 grains. Rays were not added. From 1875 to 1891, the Mint returned to the variation introduced in 1866. In 1892, Charles Barber’s new half dollar coin design replaced Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1852 Very Rare Date Seated Half, Pcgs Xf-45, Appealing (estatesale Is Now Dkrc) 1861-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Au 58 Civil War IssueSeated 1876 Cc Carson City Half Silver Dollar Sharp Details 1853 50c Seated Liberty Half Dollar - Unc+ - Beautiful Condition Rarity 1880 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Ngc Proof 62 Only 1355 Minted Rare Coin1861 Silver Seated Half Dollar Free Shipping1852 Seated Liberty Half Dollar - Pcgs Slabbed - Xf 451853 Arrows & Rays Seated Liberty Half Dollar High Xf Great Coin1869-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar San Francisco Higher Grade1858 S Seated Liberty Half Dollar *pleasing Original Xf* Tough Antebellum Date!1845 Silver Seated Half Dollar Free Shipping1869 Liberty Seated Half Dollar1860-o .50c Au-unc Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar Choice Rare High Grade Coin1855-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar *uncirculated/ms Condition* - Gorgeous Coin!!1876-cc 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1861 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1867-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c - Au*1861-o Ss Republic Shipwreck Effect 50c Seated Liberty , Display Case, Dvd Etc*1876 Ms+++ Seated Liberty Half Dollar From Big Collection1871 Seated Liberty Half Dollar - Sharp Au Coin Lower Mintage - Smooth Fields1853-o Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Half Dollar. Better Type And Grade!1854-o Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar W/ Arrows Rare Sharp Us Currency Coin1873 Silver Seated Liberty Half Dollar1843-o Silver Seated Half Dollar Free Shipping1846-o Us Seated Liberty Half Dollar1874 S Liberty Seated Half Dollar..xf+..key DateRare 1871-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Graded Vf-30 & Cac Sticker Rare Date1854 Liberty Seated Half Dollar1861 O Seated Half Dollar (ngc Graded) Original Mint Luster Very Good Vg1853 Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50 Cents - Nice Coin Free Shipping (2628)1846-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar New Orleans 50 Cent Silver Coin Good Details!Decent 1877 Seated Half Dollar Xf Not Too Bad A Coin!1851-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar Rim Dings (2018)1875 Cc Seated Liberty Half Dollar Scarce Carson City 50c, Original Look, Silver1857-o 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar Ngc Au 58Scarce 1873-cc No Arrows Liberty Seated Half Dollar1844 Silver Seated Half Dollar Free Shipping1866-s Us Seated Liberty Half Dollar1854-o Seated Liberty 50 Cents Almost Uncirculated= 1891 Ngc Xf45 Seated Half, Low Mintage 200k, Super Eye Appeal, Free Shipping1876 Cc Seated Liberty Half Dollar Scarce Carson City 50c, Original Look, Silver1858-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50 Cents Good Detail Collectible Coin 1858 Seated Liberty Half Dollar ** Free Shipping!1854-o 50c Seated Liberty Half Dollar With Arrows Nice Detail Good Condition!1876 Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50 Cent - Fine Details Silver Collectible Coin1861-o 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1840, 1858 Seated Liberty Half Dollar. No Reserve. G1856, 1874 Seated Liberty Half Dollar. No Reserve. G.1845 High Grade Seated Liberty Half Dollar From Big Collection1876 Us Seated Liberty Half Dollar1853 Seated Half Dollar!! Great Coin! Rare! Auction!!1877-s 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar 50c1859 Us Seated Liberty Half Dollar1871-p Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c Ngc Vf-35 Stack's W 57th St Collection!! 1857-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar Silver : Combined Shipping#3149 - 1843 - Seated Liberty Half Dollar - Vg1864 S Seated Liberty Half Dollar G-vg Detail1861 Silver Seated Half Dollar Free Shipping1876 50c Liberty Seated Half DollarRare Seated Quarter 1879 Pf 64 Ngc Graded Beautiful Toning Type 5 With Motto