What Not Online Auctions

HomeUS CoinsLiberty Seated Dollar, No Motto (1840-1866) | CoinWeek

Liberty Seated Dollar, No Motto (1840-1866) | CoinWeek

1845 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1845 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

When the production of silver dollar coinage was suspended during the Jefferson Administration, the United States Treasury Department faced a vexing problem concerning the wholesale export of large gold and silver coins. Not only were silver dollars being exported at an unsustainable rate, but so too were the precious few gold eagles being struck for institutional depositors. By striking half eagles and half dollars, the government hoped to slow the loss of specie. To some extent, this worked, but export demand for half eagles increased as a result.

An effort to resume coinage of the silver dollar was undertaken in April 1831, when United States Mint Director Dr. Samuel Moore wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Samuel D. Inham concerning his desire to resume coinage.

Moore wrote:

I forward herewith a specification of the coins issued from the Mint up to the 31st December 1830 which will meet the wishes of Mr. Howard. If his purpose is only to use it as a guide in searching for specimens of each variety, the number of pieces coined in the several years is a surplusage. But I am not certain that he had not some statistical inquiries also in mind.

A letter from Mr. Madson to my predecessor, under date of May 1st 1806, of which a copy is enclosed, contains the authority under which the coinage of Dollars was suspended. The Mint appears to have had intercourse with the Executive, at that period, through the Department of State, except in regard to its fiscal concerns.

The argument in favour of this suspension, has within a few years, lost much of its force. In illustration of this, I may mention a recent occurrence of a novel character. We received on the 28th ulto [of last month] two deposits for coinage, about $24,000 in Spanish Dollars from Canton, being returns of Commercial adventures, which were thus remitted by the instruction of the parties, in preference to the ordinary products of China. To guard against our silver coins straying Canton, the above mentioned provision was devised as its principal aim, and was, I believe judicious for the purpose.

On April 18, 1831, after discussing the matter with President Andrew Jackson, Ingham notified Moore that the government would allow the resumption of dollar coinage, writing:

Having submitted to the President your letter of the 13th inst., I am directed to instruct you, that, as there no longer exists any cause for suspending coinage of Dollars, the directions which have been heretofore given for that object are to be considered as no longer in force.

Despite the lifting of the moratorium, dollar coin production did not resume for several years.

A design executed by Mint Chief Engraver Christian Gobrecht and based on a design by Thomas Sully was approved by President Andrew Jackson in 1835 and first struck on December 21, 1836, This type, known as the Gobrecht Dollar, was produced in low numbers in 1836, 1838, and 1839. The Gobrecht Dollar did little, however, to reintroduce the dollar coin at scale. That responsibility fell on the Liberty Seated Dollar type, which debuted in 1840.

Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson, who replaced Moore in 1835, saw institutional adoption of the dollar coin as beneficial as it took less effort to strike than the equivalent value in half dollars. Further boosting the prospects of the silver dollar’s return were the policies of the Jackson and Van Buren Administrations, which prohibited the use of paper money for government payment for land purchases. Rampant speculation led to a real estate bubble that lead to the “Panic of 1837“, which left about 10 percent of the country’s labor force out of work.

It was against this backdrop that the Liberty Seated Dollar entered into production in July 1840 when 12,500 were delivered to the Treasurer of the Mint. Coinage trickled out until November. By the end of the series’ first year, 61,005 dollar coins were struck.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 disturbed the fragile silver-to-gold ratio, causing speculators to melt down silver coins and exchange the recovered bullion for gold. Silver coins, including dollars, were melted in mass from 1850 to 1853.

The Liberty Seated Dollar essentially disappeared from circulation after the early 1850s. More than 1.25 million silver dollars were exported overseas, mainly to China, starting in 1859. This practice slowed down considerably in 1861-1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War.

Starting in 1866, the Liberty Seated Dollar design was updated to include the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

The last examples of the type were struck in March 1873. At this point, Congress abolished the silver dollar and replaced it with the Trade Dollar, a similarly sized silver coin struck to facilitate foreign trade. The decision to eliminate the silver dollar proved controversial, leading Western mining interests and their supporters in Congress to reverse this decision in 1878, bringing the silver dollar back over presidential veto. The resulting Morgan Dollar type was struck from 1878-1904, and then again in 1921.

Contemporary Criticism of the Design

The Liberty Seated design received criticism at the time due to its blandness. In the November 1975 issue of The Numismatist, writer Ted Schwarz brought attention to a lengthy critique published in the June 1876 issue of The Galaxy Magazine. It read, in part:

Now that we see real money again our attention is naturally attracted by its appearance, the look of it. That is pleasant enough in one respect. A bright silver piece, no matter what design is stamped upon it, is a much more attractive thing than a little scrap of paper, generally crumpled and greasy. But now that we see our national money again, notwithstanding all our reasons for welcoming it, we must confess that it is not as handsome as it ought to be, as it might be, or even as it once was. It does us no credit as an exhibition of our skill in designing, in die sinking, or coining. Why is that we have the ugliest money of all civilized nations? For such undoubtedly our silver coinage is. The design is poor, commonplace, tasteless, characterless, and the execution is like thereunto. Our silver coins do not even look like money. They have rather the appearance of tokens or mean medals. One reason of this is that the design is inartistic and so insignificant. That young woman sitting on nothing in particular, wearing nothing to speak of, looking over her shoulder at nothing imaginable, and bearing in her left hand something that looks like a broomstick with a woolen night-cap on it- what is she doing there? What is the meaning of her? She is Liberty, we are told, and there is a label to that effect across a shield at her right, her need of which is not in any way manifest. But she might as well be anything else as Liberty; and at the first glance she looks much more like a spinster in her smock, with a distaff in her hand. Such a figure has no proper place upon a coin. On the reverse the eagle has the contrary fault of being too natural, too much like a real eagle. In numismatic art, animals have conventional forms, which are far more pleasing and effective than the most careful and exact imitation of nature can be.

The author went on:

Our coins of forty or fifty years ago were much better in every respect, and looked much more like money, the reason being that they bore a head of Liberty which was bold, clear, and well defined in comparison with the weak thing that the mint has given us for the last thirty years or so. The eagle too, although erring on the side of naturalness, was more suited in design to coinage. But still better were the coins struck at the end of the last century and beginning of this one. The eagle was a real heraldic eagle, the head of Liberty had more character, and the whole work was bolder and better in every way.

20th-Century Liberty Seated Dollar Finds

Bags of 1859-O and 1860-O (possibly one of each) were discovered in the 1960s and account for most of the uncirculated examples that survive for these dates. Unfortunately,  most of the coins from these bags came heavily marked and were in the lower Mint State grade level.

Several circulated examples turned up in the Treasury releases of the early 1960s. Dealers familiar with these finds posit that these coins were likely pulled from circulation in the 1880s.

Additional uncirculated bags were reported for 1867, 1870, and 1871.

How Much Are No Motto Liberty Seated Dollars Worth?

Mintages of the Liberty Seated Dollar varied year by year. Only in 1860 did the number of silver dollars coined of this type exceed the half-million mark. Many Liberty Seated Dollars were melted for their bullion value in the 1850s-’60s.

Certified population reports published by the leading grading services show more than 32,000 grading events, with most certified examples falling in the XF-AU range. Only a few hundred coins have graded Gem or higher, and none above the grade MS68.

No more than 50 Proofs were made annually until 1858, and several years show either one or no Proofs at all. A handful of exceptionally preserved specimens have graded Proof 69, but most exhibit various impairments that relegate the coins to grades Proof 64 and below.

Prices for business strikes are modest up to AU55, jumping significantly per grade for each grade above that. Key dates for business strikes are 1851 and 1852, with prices of $20,000 and $30,000 for coins in the XF range and over $100,000 for coins in Choice Mint State.

All pre-1858 Proofs are expensive and rare; those from 1859 through the end of the series in 1866 are less scarce, however, with prices dropping below that of equivalent business strike grades. Modest numbers of Cameo and Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo Proofs have been certified.

In-Depth Date Analysis by CoinWeek Notes

1864 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1864 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Extended Coverage on CoinWeek

 

In the video above, collector Bruce Morelan talks with CoinWeek’s Charles Morgan about the PCGS Registry Set Hall of Fame Legend Collection, the finest collection of Liberty Seated dollars ever assembled.

Jeff Sharid writes about the very rare branch mint Proof 1851-O Dollar.

1862 Mint State Liberty Seated Dollar

CoinWeek contributor and long-time Liberty Seated Dollar collector Greg Shishmanian talks about an incredible find at a Kentucky coin shop.

Counterfeit Detection

Struck Counterfeit Coins: 1849 Liberty Seated Dollar + 1-Page Attribution Guide

Author Jack Young and the “Dark Side” group investigate a counterfeit 1849 Liberty Seated Dollar and provide detection diagnostics for collectors.

And finally, graders at NGC encountered a suspicious 1841 Liberty Seated Dollar and explain how they determined it to be a counterfeit.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the Liberty Seated Dollar depicts Lady Liberty seated on a rock in classical flowing robes, head turned toward her right (viewer’s left). Her left arm is bent, her raised hand holding a liberty pole with a cap. The right arm is extended downward at her side with the hand balancing a shield, across which the word LIBERTY is displayed in a curving banner. Thirteen six-pointed stars surround the seated figure inside a denticulated rim with seven on the left side, one between Liberty’s head and the cap, and the remaining five along the right. The date is centered at the bottom between the base of the rock and the rim.

Reverse:

An eagle is prominently displayed inside a denticulated rim. The eagle’s wings are partially spread but folded downward at the joint as if the majestic bird had just landed or perhaps instead is preparing to fly off. An olive branch is in the dexter claw (viewer’s left) while the sinister claw clutches three arrows. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles the top two-thirds of the coin inside the rim, with the ONE DOL. denomination centered at the bottom. Most were minted at Philadelphia; New Orleans (O) and San Francisco (S) mintmarks are located below the eagle, above the denomination.

Edge:

The edge of the 1865 Liberty Seated Dollar is reeded.

Liberty Seated Dollar Varieties

Several dozen varieties are known, though they are not extensively collected. An 1867 Repunched Date is the best known.

Coin Specifications

Liberty Seated Dollar, No Motto
Years of Issue: 1840-66
Mintage (Circulation): High: 515,000 (1860-O); Low 1,100 (1852; none for 1851-O and 1858)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,330 (1860); Low: 1 (1851-O; none for 1846-O, 1850-O, 1859-O, 1859-S, and 1860-O)
Alloy: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±26.73 g
Diameter: ±38.10 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from sketches by Titian Peale/Thomas Sully
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht

 

* * *

References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. with John Dannreuther (editor). A Buyer’s Guide to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States. Zyrus Press.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.
 

* * *

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

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Heritage Auctions Consign

Professional Coin Grading Service

Blanchard and Company Gold and Precious Metals