Currently up for auction on GreatCollections.com is a nice example of an interesting transitional 19th-century U.S. silver coin.
This MS 65 CAC-approved Small Date 1837 No Stars Seated Liberty half dime sits in an early third-generation NGC holder and presents an extremely appealing face. Bidding for this spectacular piece ends on Sunday, February 19, 2023, at 4:51:18 PM Pacific Time (7:51:18 PM Eastern).
At the time of publication, and with just three days remaining until the lot closes, there is serious activity on this lot and the highest of 24 bids stands at $1,922.22.
As the first year of issue, the 1837 Seated Liberty half dime represents an intriguing transitional year in early American numismatics. Prior to the start of production on July 25, 1837, with the striking of a number of presentational Proof coins, the Philadelphia Mint struck 871,000 of the old Capped Bust design. With 1,405,000 of the new Seated Liberty types struck later that same year, the United States Mint issued a roughly average number of half dimes for the year.
While actually the third denomination to host Christian Gobrecht’s new design (a number of Proof dimes were struck on June 30, 1837), these two small denominations represent the first time that the design passed into mass circulation as the Gobrecht dollars of 1836 had such a small mintage. Furthermore, since the No Stars 1837 half dime is practically identical to the larger format dollar they came to be known as “Mini-Gobrecht[s]”. Not only did the introduction of the Liberty Seated design help create uniformity across American coinage but it was also an important attempt to stymie counterfeiting. However, as the Mint’s Chief Engraver, Gobrecht could not claim to have come up with the design all by himself. In fact, Mint Director Patterson contracted with American artists Thomas Sully and Titian Peale to help create a “Seated Liberty concept” similar to the British Britannia.
The innovative Gobrecht design marks the first time that Lady Liberty appeared full-bodied on a U.S. coin. Additionally, the 1837 Seated Liberty half dime was the first time the denomination was spelled out as “HALF DIME”. Prior to this, the coin either had no written denomination or it was written as “5 c.” Due to their novelty, the 1837 Seated Liberty half dime was saved by the public, and so, despite its average mintage, the date survived at unusually high rates for the type.
This type is usually found with sharp strikes, likely due to the use of a new steam press introduced to the floor the prior year. But on the coin being offered by GreatCollections, the frequent die erosion and clashing usually present on this type is absent. The obverse boasts a subtle lilac-dominated, rainbow toning, and the reverse a blue-green toning. There is a slight die rotation, and the reverse sits at approximately one o’clock in comparison to the obverse design. Despite a combined graded population of 192 MS 65s, which has commanded an average price of $2,184 over the past three years, this particular example has phenomenal eye appeal and is sure to sell for a large premium.
1837 Seated Liberty Half Dime Design
The obverse of the 1837 half dime is extremely simple, even Cameo-like, and is the “most undiluted and attractive portrayal of Gobrecht’s design.” Lady Liberty is seen sitting on a large rock, wearing her draping toga and strap sandals. She holds the U.S. shield, embossed with a banner reading “LIBERTY”, in her right hand, and on her left Liberty holds a staff with a liberty cap on its top. The date (1837) sits below, and the entire design is bounded by a denticled boarder.
Similar to earlier United States coinage, the reverse design of the 1837 half dime is centered on the written denomination, HALF DIME. The denomination is surrounded by a laurel wreath with six berries on each branch. The two halves of the wreath are tied together in a large decorative knot by a ribbon. The wreath is surrounded by the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
Bidding ends on Sunday, January 29, 2023, at 4:51:18 PM Pacific Time (7:51:18 PM Eastern).
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Bowers, Q. David. A Guide Book of Liberty Seated Silver Coins. Whitman. (2016)
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