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HomeUS Coins1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof : A Collector's Guide

1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.
1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

Large silver deposits were not forthcoming immediately after the Civil War, and because of this, the Philadelphia Mint produced modest numbers of silver coins but nothing approaching the levels of the mid-1870s after the passage of the Species Repayment Resumption Act was in force. The same held for gold coinage, although the San Francisco Mint continued to receive sizable deposits and churned at gold coinage at a solid rate.

While the regular issue of Philadelphia Mint 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollars totaled 417,600- a middle-of-the-road number for the period, the 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof boasts a mintage of just 600 pieces, most of which were struck in the first half of the year. As with the circulation strike mintage, the Proof mintage is typical for the period.

Deliveries of 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proofs
February 14, 1868 200 delivered March 2, 1868 100 delivered
March 24, 1868 100 delivered April 28, 1868 100 delivered
July 9, 1868 100 delivered Total: 600 coins

 

The 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof, like most 19th-century Proof coins, was struck with a brilliant, mirror-like finish. The occasional coin will exhibit some degree of Cameo contrast, but these are seldom encountered. Most examples will be toned, and a few will be attractive and colorful.

What Is the 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Worth?

Despite its low mintage and 150+ year age, the 1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar remains affordable in Choice to Gem grades. Eye appeal will certainly play a factor in the retail value of this or any 19th-century Proof coin, but a typical example in a CAC, NGC, or PCGS holder up to the grade of Proof 64 should cost between $1,200 and $1,500.

In examining the top end of the market, CoinWeek has tracked 25 different coins in grades ranging from Proof-65 Cameo to Proof 68 Cameo. Many of these examples have cycled through the market multiple times, and several coins have been re-encapsulated, crossed over, upgraded, or even downgraded. A few examples have been flogged (a practice where a coin is listed at auction repeatedly in quick succession, sometimes in a different holder), which can be viewed as either a reflection of thinness in the market or as a statement about the desirability of the piece. Without personally reviewing the coin in hand or understanding the position of the consignor, one can’t say for sure.

Having said that, the PCGS PR68CAM (#33085272) is, hands down, our consensus pick for the finest example known.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS PR68CAM (1, 4/2024), NGC PF67UC (2, 4/2024), and CAC PR68CAM (1:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS PR68CAM #33085272: As NGC PF68 #174594-009. Superior, August 1992, Lot 336. Offered as part of an original 1868 Silver Proof Set; Heritage Auctions, June 1998, Lot 5806; American Numismatic Rarities, October 11, 2004, Lot 398 – $29,900; As NGC PF68 CAC #174594-009. Heritage Auctions, October 27, 2014, Lot 98534 – $41,125. Target rainbow toning on the obverse and reverse. Three small scattered light toning spots on Liberty’s right forearm. Imaged at PCGS CoinFacts.
  • NGC PF67 #2222429-001: Bowers and Merena, October 2006, Lot 5424; “The Arlington Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4125 – $25,200. Black and white contrast.
  • NGC PF67 #6058347-004: Heritage Auctions, May 4, 2022, Lot 3531 – $12,600; Heritage Auctions, August 26, 2022, Lot 4526 – $8,700; Heritage Auctions, December 15, 2022, Lot 3471 – $8,252.40; Stack’s Bowers, August 16, 2023, Lot 5036 – $10,200. It has attractive purple, blue, aqua, and gold toning.
  • PCGS PR67CAM CAC #60087214: “The Daryl J. Hayner Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2011, Lot 7185 – $37,375; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, December 15, 2021, Lot 125 – $31,725; “The Warren Collection,” Heritage Auctions, May 5, 2022, Lot 3912 – $26,400. Rose / Apricot toning with vivid blue at the top of the obverse.
  • NGC PF67 #274452-033: “The Philip Kaufman Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2003, Lot 7212 – $6,325. P. Kaufman on insert.
  • NGC PF66+CAM #3417255-008: Heritage Auctions, March 2013, Lot 3533 – $6,168.75; Stack’s Bowers, November 3, 2022, Lot 8101 – $5,040; Heritage Auctions, May 4, 2023, Lot 3950 – $6,600. Latte-colored toning. Curved toning break or mark from shoulder to star 6.Toning spot to the right of the knee. Dark toning spot between H and A on the reverse.
  • NGC PF66+CAM #3809672-001: As PCGS PR66 #25208670. Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2015, Lot 4521 – $4,734.08. As NGC PF66+CAM #3809672-001. Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2017, Lot 4407 – $4,935. Crossed to NGC, where the coin upgraded one half point and was given the Cameo designation. Streak of gold, blue and purple toning along the obverse periphery, and all over on the reverse. Streaks of gold and goldenrod toning in the right field of the obverse.
  • PCGS PR66CAM #39007736: As PCGS PR66CAM #25643155. Bob R. Simpson; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, December 17, 2015, Lot 239 – $5,757.50. Simpson on insert; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, March 26, 2020, Lot 382 – $9,400. As PCGS PR66CAM #39007736. “The Boylston Collection, Part IV,” Legend Rare Coin Auctions, February 23, 2023, Lot 242 – $9,693.75. Reholdered and given new cert number. Simpson’s pedigree was removed. Amber toning with darker toning at the top of the obverse and along the periphery of the reverse. Scattered toning disturbance above head, continuing to star 9.
  • PCGS PR66CAM #25675426: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, October 15, 2015, Lot 300 – $8,812.50; Heritage Auctions, November 2017, Lot 16766 – $6,600; Heritage Auctions, July 14, 2021, Lot 3262 – $7,800.
  • PCGS PR66CAM CAC #27973387: As NGC PF67CAM #1551008-001. Heritage Auctions, January 3, 2007, Lot 989 – $12,650. As NGC PF67CAM #2137449-004. “The Slotkin Family Trust Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2011, Lot 5165 – $17,250; “The Greensboro Collection, Part II,” Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2013, Lot 5685 – $14,100. As PCGS PR66CAM CAC #27973387. Heritage Auctions, September 27, 2013, Lot 6453 – $17,625; “The Warren Collection,” Heritage Auctions, May 5, 2022, Lot 3911 – $9,000; Heritage Auctions, October 6, 2022, Lot 3056 – $8,400Scattered orange-brown toning.
  • NGC PF66 #4879759-007: “The Boylston Collection,” Legend Rare Coin Auctions, April 21, 2021, Lot 104 – $3,760.
  • PCGS PR66 #25243164: Heritage Auctions, December 4, 2014, Lot 3589 – $4,700.
  • NGC PF66 #2037663-064: Colonel E.H.R. Green; Green estate to Eric P. Newman and B.G. Johnson, d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co, acquired for $10; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society; “The Eric P. Newman Collection, Part II,” Heritage Auctions, November 16, 2013, Lot 33770 – $6,756.25. Newman novelty insert.
  • PCGS PR66 #2618489: Heritage Auctions, August 11, 2011, Lot 4027 – $4,743.75.
  • NGC PF66*CAM #3211735-001: Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2009, Lot 2900 – $5,750.
  • NGC PF66 #555322-019: Heritage Auctions, June 26, 2008, Lot 1044 – $4,887.50.
  • NGC PF66*CAM #1507345-001: Heritage Auctions, November 6, 2007, Lot 790 – $6,900.
  • NGC PF66*CAM #259480-020: “The Col. Carmine Penta Collection, Part 2,” Heritage Auctions, February 28, 2003, Lot 7842 – $5,290; Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2004, Lot 6659 – $8,625. Dark rose and emerald green toning.
  • NGC PF65*CAM #2153040-008: Heritage Auctions, December 2009, Lot 744; “The Gaitros Collection of U.S. Coinage,” Heritage Auctions, January 3, 2018, Lot 3741 – $7,590; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, May 27, 2021, Lot 128 – $5,287.50.
  • PCGS PR65CAM #25549778: “The Richard Jewell Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 14, 2013, Lot 4198 – $5,005.50.
  • PCGS PR65CAM #06648180: “T.W. Brown Collection,” Heritage Long Beach Signature Auction, September 24, 2010, Lot 5117 – $8,337.50. PCGS Pop 3 in PR65CAM, one finer (8/10); Heritage New York Signature, February 4, 2014, Lot 5145 – $4,846.88. PCGS Pop 7 in PR65CAM, two finer (12/13); “Maltese Collection,” Heritage Signature Auction, October 16, 2020, Lot 3390 – $4,320. PCGS Pop 6 in 65 Cameo, five finer (8/20); “Arlington Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 28, 2024, Lot 7071 – $5,040. PCGS Pop 6; 9 finer in this category.
  • NGC PF65CAM #2141410-001: Heritage Auctions, January 2007, Lot 4517; “The Slotkin Family Trust Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 27, 2011, Lot 3700 – $4,887.50.
  • PCGS PR65CAM #10532554: As PCGS PR65CAM #21559175. “The John Cobb Sale,” California State N.A., November 1965, Lot 427 – $100; Heritage Auctions, June 3, 2004, Lot 7252 – $3,680. As PCGS PR65CAM #10532554. “The Stephen Stokely #1 PCGS Registry Set of Proof Seated Half Dollars,” Heritage Auctions, August 2006, Lot 3381 – $4,600. Stokely Collection on insert; Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2010, Lot 3491 – $4,887.50. Streaky blue, maroon, and rust-colored toning along the periphery of the Obverse and silhouetting Liberty.

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Design

Obverse:

The classic obverse design of Seated Liberty coinage was created by Christian Gobrecht, from 1840 to 1844, the third Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. It features Lady Liberty sitting on a nondescript prop, of which we can deduce little. Her head is turned to her right, which leaves her long hair cascading over her left shoulder. Like many such representations, Liberty wears sandals and a long dress inspired by classical art. In her left hand, she holds a pole atop a Liberty cap. Her right hand slightly cradles a heraldic shield with the word LIBERTY on a scroll across it. Beneath the ground upon which Liberty’s seat is positioned, the date 1868 is found in the exergue. Thirteen six-pointed stars arc along the top half of the coin. Denticles surround the entire design.

Reverse:

An eagle worthy of the name graces the reverse. Its head is also turned to its right; its wings are spread out but down. It holds three sharp arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right. An escutcheon based on the U.S. flag covers its breast. A scroll unravels above its head, upon which is written the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arcs clockwise around the top of the coin, the abbreviated denomination HALF DOL. runs counterclockwise along the bottom. As with the obverse, denticles surround the entire side. Overall, the design improves John Reich’s earlier half dollar reverse.

1868 Liberty Seated Half Dollar Proof Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1868
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 600
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 12.5 g
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Proof

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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