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Liberty Seated Half Dime, Arrows (1853-1855) | CoinWeek

1853 Liberty Seated Half Dime Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1853 Liberty Seated Half Dime Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

The Act of February 21, 1853 established the prevalence of fiat coinage in the United States, in which the value stamped on a coin was what it was worth, not the value of the material from which it was made. Today, all circulating coins have a face value higher than their metal value (recent copper and nickel price issues notwithstanding), but in the mid-19th century, this was not the case. People expected coins to have intrinsic value, but maintaining parity between the face value and the metal value of silver and gold coins was a constant balancing act.

The discovery of vast quantities of gold in California in 1848 and subsequent years disrupted that balance. As gold became plentiful but silver supplies remained constant, gold’s value declined relative to silver and the price of silver rose. When the face value of circulating silver coins became less than the value of the silver in those pieces, silver coins disappeared from circulation, melted as bullion or hoarded.

To address the problem, United States Mint Director George N. Eckert reduced the weight of silver coins (except for the dollar) so that melting would no longer be profitable – a change authorized by the February Act. To distinguish new half dimes from the old heavier coins, and with no time to make significant alterations, the only change made by Chief Engraver James B. Longacre was the addition of an arrow on each side of the date. Arrows appeared on half dimes from 1853 through 1855; 1853-dated half dimes were produced both without arrows and with arrows. James Ross Snowden became Mint Director in 1853 and removed the arrows from 1856 Liberty Seated Half Dimes, probably because most of the older heavyweight coins had been melted or put away for safekeeping. All half dimes from 1856 forward were produced at the lower weight.

How Much Is the Liberty Seated Half Dime with Stars and Arrows Worth?

Several hundred circulation strike Liberty Seated, Stars, Arrows at Date Half Dimes have been certified for most dates. Prices are moderate up to and including Gem, becoming expensive at Premium Gem and finer. The New Orleans issues–particularly the 1855-O–are more expensive, with prices nearly double or triple those for coins minted at Philadelphia.

Proof examples of the type are scarce or rare and include a few pieces certified as Cameo. All Proofs are expensive, becoming very expensive as Gem and finer. The 1853 Liberty Seated Half Dime Proof is expensive in all grades.

Extended Coverage on CoinWeek

Classic U.S. Coins for Less Than $500 Each, Part 31: Liberty Seated Half Dimes

CoinWeek contributor and U.S. coin expert Greg Reynolds covers the entire Liberty Seated Half Dime series in-depth in Part 31(!) of his Classic U.S. Coins for Less Than $500 Each series.

Design

Obverse:

A full-length representation of Liberty wears long, flowing robes and is seated on a rock, head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, her hand supporting a Union shield with a slightly curved banner displaying the word LIBERTY. The date is centered below the rock upon which Liberty rests and is flanked on either side by a short arrow pointing away from it. Inside denticles along the raised rim, 13 stars form a partial circle: seven to the left of Liberty, one between Liberty’s head and the Liberty cap, and five to the right.

Reverse:

The reverse has a concentric circle formed by the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, broken at the bottom by the ribbon that ties the ends of two laurel branches. The branches form another circle inside the text, though the ends are separated slightly at the top, and in the center is the denomination HALF DIME, each word on a separate line. A circle of denticles lies inside the raised rim. Arrows at Date half dimes were produced at Philadelphia and New Orleans each of the three years of the type; the O mintmark is located below DIME and above the bows of the ribbon.

Coin Specifications

Liberty Seated Half Dime, Arrows
Years of Issue: 1821-28, 1834-35
Mintage (Circulation): High: 13,210,020 (1853); Low: 600,000 (1855-O)
Mintage (Proof): High: 20 (1854 and 1855, estimated); Low 5: (1853, estimated)
Alloy: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±1.24 g
Diameter: ±15.50 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/Thomas Sully design | modified by Robert Ball Hughes and James B. Longacre
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/Thomas Sully design | modified by Robert Ball Hughes and James B. Longacre

 

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Additional Resources

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

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

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

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.
 

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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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