Collecting Liberty Seated Dollars

Collecting Liberty Seated Dollars

Liberty Seated Dollars (1840-1873)

The New Design

Gobrecht modified the 1836 and 1839 design before their release in 1840. With the new modifications, it makes the coin seem less delicate with drapery coming over her left elbow, while the word LIBERTY can be seen on the relief of 1836 to 1839. Another modification is getting rid of his name from the coin which he received a lot of criticism for. On the reverse, it shows a perched eagle, a design that Gobrecht took from the quarters of 1838 and 1839. That design however was taken from John Reich and his half dollar design of 1807.

Silver Dollars in Commerce

The silver dollars of 1840 were made in the intent to be circulated and so on July 21 1840 coinage began. It still is up in the air if dollars from earlier dates were circulated. In 1840 the only coin that matched its weight in silver was the silver dollar and had a premium of about 3 percent. During that time there was a high demand for the dollars with lots of them being sent to Europe, mainly England and France. They also were exporting to China through relatives sending back their money. For Europe the coins would usually return back home when English or anyone would perch good from us with those coins. Dollars that went to China however usually did not see a return home they were mainly getting melted down.  The amount of coins that were minted in the 1840s was at its highest at 814,618 in 1842 while its lowest was only 15,000 in 1846. The first branch mints coinage started in 1846 at the time though there were around a million Spanish-American eight Reales in circulation. This was because unlike the dollar the eight Reales was Widely more accepted with it being accepted at almost every port in the world. For example if you were to go from New England down the pepper trail and into the East Indies you would take thousands of eight Reales. A part of the reason why the eight Reales was so popular was because it was intently recognizable and was known to be full silver. The international price of silver rose after 1849 which resulted in silver coins getting taken out of circulation except for a few coins such as some half dimes and dimes. The price of silver had risen to $1.013 making it worth more than its face value so the production of the silver dollar dropped and gold coins were on the rise. Their solution to this was to make lighter coins with less silver in it and new lighter weight coins performed very well..

Branch Mint Coinage of Dollars

Although a large portion of Liberty seated dollars were struck in Philadelphia other Mints like San Francisco New Orleans in Carson City also coined A small amount of Liberty seated dollars as well. a branch issued mint Occurred in 1846 with the Liberty seated dollar getting around 59000 coins struck in New Orleans they were used for exported trade. 1870 through 1873 the Carson City mint was coining Liberty seated dollars with the distinguished CC mint mark; they were then distributed throughout the region. The 1870-CC  can be seen frequently today while the 1873-CC is the rarest of this variety. The San Francisco mint struck Liberty seated dollars in 1859 and made about 20,000 1849-S  that were created  specifically to be exported to China. Today the coin is rare in all grades and is in uncirculated preservation. 

Other Aspects of Minting And Circulation

Newspapers, congressmen and most people didn't know or understand why silver dollars were not seen in circulation; they also didn't understand that the coins cost more than their face value. Starting in 1862 the treasury Department began putting out legal tender notes that were not used to redeem gold or silver coins most Americans were unsure of the outcome of the Civil War and started to hoard the silver coins. It wasn't until April 20th 1876 that the value of a silver coin was the same as the legal tender, coins that have been stored for many years started to be put back into circulation. By the time the coins started to re-emerge in circulation the seated liberty dollar had been discontinued. 

Aspect of Striking

The 1836 to 1839  Gobrecht dollars are all in proof format and are all sharp struck. 1840 and later  circulated Liberty seated dollars have wear on the word Liberty due to the shield. This is on all denominations of Liberties and can be worn considerably And sometimes completely disappear after only little wear. Weakness in strikes can be seen in many places, arias like the head and the stars are usually a good indicator of a weak strike. If you're looking at the reverse, places like the shield and eagle's neck are going to be what you're looking for. 

Proof liberty Seated Dollars

During the early 1800s the boom in numismatists was going on and the mint was very willing to accommodate this new buzz and helped create some amazing cabinets. One of those people is Robert Gilmor Jr. he was able to have basically complete sets with every known date. In the early 1820s a man by the name of Gilmor was able to contact Adam Eckfeldt at the Mint and obtain any coins for his collection. In the 1830s he suggested that the Mint should have a display of their own collection, and in June of 1838 the mint cabinet was on display. Sadly, the institution did not thrive and later was replaced by the Smithsonian which collected the coins from the institution. There are claims however that the Mint struck coins collectors needed to finish there sets and this seems to be true. 

Grading Liberty Seated Silver Dollars

1864. Graded MS-65: There will be some abrasion as well as contact marks. The most notable places are on the thighs, knees and bosom. There still is luster but might not be fully present. MS-63 has very few marks and any abrasions will be hard to find and would need magnification to see. MS-65 the coin will have no abrasion also no contact marks and if there is magnification would have to be used to see them. They will also have full luster unless they are from the Philadelphia mint. On the reverse the same comments as above will apply. 

1842. Graded AU-58: There will be some light wear on the bosoms, knees, head, and thighs. AU-58 the luster will be extensive but incomplete and there will be friction on the field. On the reverse there will be wear on the claws, neck, and the top of the wings. AU-58 will almost have full luster because of the way it is designed on the reverse. 

1846. Graded EF-40: There will be more wear on especially on the head, bosom, knees, and thighs. There will be little to no luster left. On the reverse there will be more wear especially on the eagle top left of claws, neck, and on the right wing you will have some of the feathers blending together.

1854. Graded VF-20: More wear will be present and should be able to be seen. Most series with detail are now missing except for places with low relief like the shield. On the reverse there is more wear on the top of the right wing. More feathers will also be blended together especially on the right wing. The shield will also show a little wear. 

1872-CC. Graded F-12: liberty is well worn with little detail present. LIBERTY is weak and has no more than 2 and a half letters missing. On the reverse more detail is lost with half of the feathers being blended.

1871-CC. Graded VG-8:  The Liberty is more than worn some details might be able to be seen. The shield is somewhat there with three of the letters from LIBERTY being there although weak. However beware that the LIBERTY is not a reliable source to Grade this coin because of some discrepancies with the word being more present on certain dates. On the reverse There will be more wear. It will only be flat on the edges; the leaves are just an outline of the rim is still visible. 

1850-O. Graded G-6: The Liberty Is worn down and is now smooth. G-4 there are no letters left if LIBERTY. G-6 one or two letters are present but heavily worn. On the reverse It will be worn more extensively with the feathers nearly all gone. The rim is more faded but still can be seen in some areas. Some of the letters might be worn or even worn away but the reverse still seems to be in higher grade.

1872, Graded AG-3:  The Liberty figure is visible but just an outline at this point showing no detail. The rim has been worn away but the date is still clear.  On the reverse most if not all of the eagle is an outline at this point and the rim is extensively weak or even missing.

1861. Grading PF-63: The proof will be extensively clean and have a good amount of hair line if it is duller or grainy it will be put into a grade like PF-60-62. PF-66 Will have hair lines so delicate that you will need magnification to see them. anything above that the proof should be free of any lines.

Collecting Liberty seated Dollars

The book called “the American Numismatical Manual” written by Montroville Wilson Dickson in 1859 talks about the easily obtainability of Silver dollar which included the Seated Liberty dollar. In the book it gives you insight on what Numismatics thought of the coin in their time, it also covered the first two decades of the series. The Book basically stated that the coin was ignored in auctions.


1840 (scarce)

1841 (plenty)

1842 and 1843 (plenty)

1844 (rare)



1847 (plenty)

1848 (scarce)

1849 (plenty)

1850 (scarce)

1851 (extremely rare)

1852 (rare)

1853 (scarce)

1854 (rare)

1855 (plenty)

1856 (rare)


Circulation strikes will be some more available in grades such as VF to AU  coins will be scarce in the higher grades such as MS-60 to 65. If you're looking for proofs they're not as hard to find as dates  in the 1860s and even 1870s. If you are trying to form a complete collection of every date and mint mark this will be difficult especially for the 1870-S because there are only nine that we know of exist with a tenth reported but currently not confirmed. On top of that there are countless other dates just like the 1870-S that will be very hard to find. Another problem that you will run into is finding the grades that you are looking for because most of these coins took quite a beating; they are mostly worn. Another thing to note is that after 1858 till the end of the series in 1873 and every year they made 500-1,000 proofs.

What To Know When Buying 

Something that is present with almost every coin is to not rely heavily on the grade. you should be looking at sharpness and if it was a clean strike. You should be looking for eye appeal. A coin that is beautiful to the eye with a Lower grade is better than a lifeless coin with a higher Grade. The grading services will pay little attention to the beauty of the coin or its eye appeal but collectors and buyers will. For circulated coins I would avoid coins with scratches and nicks. Note that no one has ever completed a Mint State collection of coins from the 1840s and 1850s

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