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    

(an) Us Half Dollar 1853 O Xf Silver1843 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1840 50c Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar, Small Letters(an) Us Half Dollar 1844 O Nice Silver1861-o Ngc Ms61 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Ss Republic Shipwreck Effect W/ Box!Ngc Au55 1858 Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar1863-s 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1847 50c Seated Liberty Half Dollar1832 Capped Bust Half Dollar - High Grade - No Reserve1875-cc Seated Liberty 20 Cent Piece1860-p Seated Liberty Half Dollar Better Date Rare Old Type Coin 50c. High Grade1858-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar Rainbow Toned Rare Old Type Coin High Grade1862 Seated Liberty Half Dollar1875 Cc Seated Liberty Half Dollar Certified Graded Pcgs F 151842 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Xf +1876-cc Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c - Vg 1854 Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar Xf/au Us Coin1861-o 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar1855-o Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar (arrows) Au 58 Ngc1877-s Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar Vf - Circulated Us Coin - * Ships Free*nice 1846 Seated Liberty Half Dollar With Square Hole & 6 Date Stamp*50c 1855-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf Details * Key Date! * Avenuecoin1876-cc Lower Mintage Seated Liberty Half Dollar -- Nice Circulated Coin!!!!1842 50c Medium Date Liberty Seated Half Dollar1857 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, "details" Cleaned ** Free Shipping!50c 1869 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Pcgs Vf35 * Avenuecoin1858-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar1858 Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar Coin #3402 $hi-grade$us Mint$rare Estate1875 Seated Lib. Half*with Full Liberty,scroll,clasp & Nice Hair*!!!1861 O Liberty Seated Half - Holed - No Reserve1874-s 50c Liberty Seated Half Dollar 90% Silver Coin Variety 5 Arrows At Date 1876 Seated Liberty Half Dollar ~ No Reserve Auction 1871 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Icg Very Fine 35 Choice Original Coin1860-s Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar ~ Interesting Chopmark ReverseBetter Date 1866 Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar - Circulated Us Coin -1876 S Us Seated Liberty Half Dollar Old Us Silver Dollar Coin As Shown *76571844-o Seated Half Dollar - Late Die State With Rim Cud - See Pictures N/rUnited States 1869 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Nice!1869-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Vf Details, True Auction1853 Seated Liberty Arrows And Rays Half Dollar Nice Rare1858 S Seated Liberty Half Dollar Ngc Au Details Improperly Cleaned (003)1823 Us Silver Capped Bust Lettered Edge Half Dollar 50 Cents Fifty CentsSeated Liberty Half Dollar 1856 - P 1858 - O 1860 - P 1866 - S 1871-s 1877-sNice 1859 Seated Liberty Half Dollar1867 Seated Liberty Half Dollar1858 O Seated Liberty Half Dollar Ngc Unc Details Damaged (029)1847 Seated Liberty Half DollarCirculated 1870 S Seated Liberty 900 Silver Half Dollar Coin * K 56031844 Seated Half Dollar - Shattered Reverse Die - Vf-cleanedCirculated 1858 O Seated Liberty 900 Silver Half Dollar Coin * K 56031877 S Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar1853 Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar1854-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Choice Vf+ With Arrows! ** Free Shipping!1844 Seated Liberty Silver Half DollarCirculated 1859 1859 S Seated Liberty 900 Silver Half Dollar Coins * K 56031850-o Silver Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c New Orleans***plugged No Reserve!1858 P Liberty Seated Half Dollar1848 O 50c Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar1854 P Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Philadelphia, Silver, Circulated1861-o Civil War Era Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar - Circulated Us Coin -