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    

Ngc Ss Republic Shipwreck 1861 O Csa Confederate Seated Liberty Half Dollar1882 Seated Liberty Silver Half Rare Date1864 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Extremely Fine Xf. Rare P Mint! An Elusive Coin1876-cc Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Xf DetailsSeated Liberty Usa 50 Cents 1888 Choice Proof W/ Light Toning Pcgs Pr61Ngc Ss Republic Shipwreck 1861 O New Orleans Seated Liberty Half Dollar10 Coin Seated Liberty Half Dollar Lot-53-54o-55o-57-58-59o-71-75-76-771861-o Seated Half Pcgs Xf45 Toned Nr Past Tw Coin Card Internet Game Coin1846-o U. S. Seated Liberty Half Dollar ( Fine + )Ngc Ss Republic Shipwreck Csa New Orleans High O Seated Liberty Half Set Of 3Ngc Ss Republic Shipwreck 1860 High O Variety Seated Liberty Half Dollar1856-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Au Details1854-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar, With Arrows! ** Free Shipping!1841-o Liberty Seated Half Dollar Vg/f New Orleans Mint Estate Find Problem Free1875 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Au Details1871-cc Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar 50c~incredible Rare Date Cc Date Coin!1854 50¢ Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar Fifty Cents Philadelphia Mint Coin1881 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Challenging Choice Bu Key Date! ** Free S/h!Seated Liberty Usa 25 Cents 1878 Proof W/ Ultra Cameo Ngc Pf61 Cameo1858 Pcgs Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Au 50 ** Super Pq For The Grade!1859 O Silver United States Seated Liberty Half Dollar Coin Condition: Xf / Au1861-o Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar - 50c - No Reserve!1877 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Tough Choice Au++ Coin, ** Free Shipping!1876 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Au Detail1861 50c Liberty Seated Half DollarUs Seated Liberty Half Dollar 1857-s Fine1874 Silver Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c United States Coin1857 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Pcgs Ms 62Genuine 1839 No Drapery Silver Seated Liberty 50c.1877 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Au 50 Original Superior Half Dollar1877 Cc 50c Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar 1857-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50¢ Anacs Au58 Details1844 O Silver United States Seated Liberty Half Dollar Coin New Orleans Mint1855-o U. S. Seated Liberty Half Dollar ( Fine )1861-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Struck By Csa, Decent Vg, True Auction1875 Cc Seated Liberty 50c, Pcgs Vg 10,  no Reserve!!1854 Seated Liberty Half Dollar - Good Details Jefferson Nickel Collection 1938-19611857 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Very Attractive Choice Au Issue! ** Free S/h!1871-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Xf Details1876-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Genuine Cleaning - Xf Details1855-o Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Arrows, Choice Xf++/au, Double Date Issue!1859 Seated Half Dollar Ngc Au 501854 Arrows Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pcgs Au Details 1859-o Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar -50c - No Reserve!1861-s Seated Liberty Half Dollar & Nazi Coins German 3rd Reich Us Civil War LotRare 1864 Liberty Seated Half Dollar 50c Silver Coin Pcgs Ms64 No ReserveUs 50c 1874 Seated Liberty Ef Nice Type Coin1877cc Us Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar! Carson City! Vg/fine! Old Coins!1874 Seated Half Dollar--very Nice Fine1874 Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50c Fine F1858-o Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar - 50c - No Reserve!1876-s U. S. Seated Liberty Half Dollar ( Vg + )1853 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Silver Coin 50c Fifty Cents Rays & Arrows1855-o Ar Seated Liberty Half Dollar 50¢- G/vg1856-o Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar..1858-o Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar1877 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Ef45 Icg CertifiedSeated Liberty Quarter , Half Dollar 1876 1854o Silver Free Shipping No Reserve1860-s Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar - 50c - No Reserve!