Even in circulated condition, a Seated Liberty half dollar is worth a lot more than fifty cents. According to PCGS, a professional grading service, many circulated examples sell for over $40, and uncirculated and proof coins may retail for thousands. Meanwhile, the actual bullion in these 90 percent silver coins is worth about $8 at today’s silver prices. That means that the numismatic value of most Seated Liberty halves exceeds their bullion value considerably.
Some collectors enjoy sorting through rolls of half dollars from the bank as a way to treasure hunt for valuable coins. A Washington NBC affiliate1 reported that one lucky resident of the state recently found an 1861-O Seated Liberty half in a roll of coins that were all supposed to be recent Kennedy halves. Since this rare coin came from the New Orleans mint while it was controlled by the Confederacy, it might get compared to a similar coin that recently sold for over $3,500.
Seated Liberty Half Dollar Facts
|Original designer and engraver:||Christian Gobrecht|
|Original sketch artist:||Thomas Sully|
|Metal:||90 percent silver and 10 percent copper|
|Coin diameter:||30.6 mm|
The Seated Liberty design commonly appeared on half dimes, dimes, quarters, and half dollars in the United States between 1836 and 1891. It also appeared on silver dollars until 1873. For three years, between 1875 to 1878, the mint also made 20 cent pieces, but production was discontinued because the coins looked and felt too much like quarters. The Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco mints all produced these coins.
The front of the half dollar shows the Liberty goddess seated on a rock, and that gives this series its name. The reverse show an eagle clutching an olive branch and a bundle of arrows. The absence of a mint mark below the eagle’s talons tells you that the Philadelphia mint produced this coin. Otherwise, the presence of a CC, O, or S mint mark tells you that it either came from the Carson City, New Orleans, or San Francisco mints.
Coins with mint marks, especially CC, are especially prized because they are more rare today. As with any collectable coin, coins with the same date and mint mark that are in uncirculated or proof condition are worth more than circulated coins. For example, Coin Trackers estimated the value of an 1875-CC in very worn condition at about $50. Meanwhile, they value a perfect example of that same coin at over $2,000. By worn, they mean a coin in worse condition than average, and by perfect, they mean that coin looks uncirculated.
Through the years, the Seated Liberty half dollar underwent some subtle design changes that might impact the value of the coin. For example, in 1853, rays emanated out from the eagle on the reverse. That was also the year that arrows pointed outwards from the date on the obverse. The rays only lasted a year, but the arrows stayed until 1856.
Why Collect Seated Liberty Half Dollars?
In good condition, these coins are very beautiful and detailed. Moreover, many collectors favor this series because many different varieties and subtle differences can still be found. Finally, some examples of this series are quite affordable for collectors with limited budgets, but there is still the potential to find a valuable treasure.