Liberty Seated Dollar

Obverse of Seated Liberty Silver Dollar
Reverse of Seated Liberty Silver Dollar

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Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): Following the production of an illustrious series of Liberty Seated pattern dollars in 1836, 1838 and 1839, the Liberty Seated style was first produced for large-scale circulating coinage in 1840. From then through 1865, coinage of the “No Motto” reverse type was continuous.

The design parallels that of other Liberty Seated issues, with Miss Liberty seated on a rock, holder in her left hand a liberty cap on a pole and with her right hand holding a shield inscribed LIBERTY. Thirteen stars are above, and the date is below. The reverse shows an eagle perched on an olive branch and holding three arrows, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above and ONE DOL. below.

Within the 1840-1865 span there are a number of scarce and rare issues, with 1851, 1852 and 1858 designated as major rarities. Commoner issues are readily available in grades from Very Good through Extremely Fine, with most survivors being in Fine to Very fine grade. As silver dollars were not circulated as extensively as other denominations, few are seen in grades below Very Good. AU coins are available as are Uncirculated pieces, particularly 1859-O and 1860-O in the latter category (survivors from a small group of coins which came to light during the Treasury release of 1962). Superb Uncirculated pieces are rarities.

Proofs were first distributed to collectors in 1858 and are available from that date through 1865, although scattered earlier issues occasionally come on the market.

The Liberty Seated dollar design was modified in 1866 by the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the ribbon or scroll above the eagle on the reverse. Otherwise the design is the same as that which had been in use since 1840. The With Motto type continued in use through 1873.

The glory days of the silver dollar denomination were yet to come, and mintages were low in comparison to what would happen with the Morgan silver dollar beginning in 1878. The only “common” Liberty Seated dollars in this range are the 1871 and 1872, and even they are scarce in relation to later issues. The 1870-S is one of the legendary rarities in U.S. numismatics, with only about a dozen pieces known. The few Carson City issues (1870-1873) are also quite tough, with miniscule original mintages.

As Liberty Seated silver dollars did not circulate as actively as smaller denominations, pieces in well-worn grades such as Good and Very Good are much scarcer (though no more desirable or expensive) than coins in Fine to Very Fine grade, the latter being the conditions typically seen. Extremely Fine and AU pieces are available, with Uncirculated pieces being somewhat scarcer, though by no means rare. Superb Uncirculated pieces are fairly rare. Proofs were made of all Philadelphia Mint issues, and exist today in proportion to their original mintages.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers