Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): The Liberty Seated design, without motto on the reverse, was minted in the half dollar series from 1839 through 1866. Certain pieces dated 1853 and all dated 1854 and 1855 have arrows at the date and are different types, as discussed in the next section. The obverse features Liberty seated on a rock, holding in her left hand a liberty cap on a pole and with her right hand holding a shield inscribed LIBERTY. Thirteen stars surround the top border, and the date is at bottom. The reverse is similar to the preceding type, and consists of an eagle perched on an olive branch and holding three arrows, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above and HALF DOL. below.
Numerous variations exist throughout the series, including the absence of drapery from Liberty’s elbow on certain issues of 1839, different sizes of reverse lettering and different date numeral sizes. While there are some scarce varieties (notably the 1842-O Small Date, 1844-O Double Date, 1847/6) and some rare date/mm combinations (the Philadelphia issues of 1850-1852, 1855-S and the 1866-S No Motto) and even a major U.S. rarity (1853-O No Arrows) there are enough common dates that the type collector should have little difficulty in finding a nice affordable example in any desired grade from Good through About Uncirculated. Likewise Uncirculated examples are widely available, but truly superb examples above MS-66 are very rare.
The quality of striking is apt to vary from issue to issue, with those made in New Orleans being often lightly struck, particularly on the obverse stars.
-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers