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Liberty Seated Half Dime, With Legend (1860-1873) | CoinWeek

1861 Liberty Seated Half Dime. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1861 Liberty Seated Half Dime. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

After the weight of the half dime was reduced in 1853 (indicated by an arrow on either side of the date through 1855, then dropped from the motif), the design was unchanged until 1860. In that year United States Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre replaced the 13 stars on the obverse with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the simple laurel wreath on the reverse with a more detailed cereal wreath.

Half dime production was handled by the Philadelphia and New Orleans mints in 1860. That year, New Orleans minted its last half dimes, before the formation of the Confederacy and the outbreak of the Civil War. Starting in 1863 and every year except one thereafter, half dimes were struck for commercial purposes at Philadelphia and the recently-opened San Francisco Mint.

The 1978 Half Dime Discovery That Shocked the Hobby

According to official records, San Francisco had dies on hand to produce Liberty Seated Half Dimes, With Legend in 1870 but didn’t strike any. So imagine the hobby’s surprise when one turned up at a prominent Chicago coin dealer’s office in the spring of 1978. The 1870-S Liberty Seated Half Dime was the talk of the American Numismatic Association’s annual convention. The first reported sale of the coin after the convention occurred in 1980 when it sold for a reported $425,000. In 2023, the coin sold for the record sum of $3.12 million.

Another With Legend Liberty Seated Half Dime oddity is the rare but not unique 1860 Liberty Seated Half Dime with dies prepared by Assistant Engraver Anthony C. Paquet. Paquet Half Dimes made in 1859 and 1860 combine a hollow-center Stars obverse with the Laurel reverse (1859) and the new cereal Wreath reverse (1860). Some have categorized the Paquet strikes as transitional pieces, while others classify the coins as fantasy pieces, not intended to circulate.

The Half Dime denomination, which was the first U.S. coin denomination struck by the United States under the authority of the Mint Act of 1792, was discontinued under the provisions of the Coinage Act of 1873.

How Much Are Liberty Seated Half Dimes, With Legend Worth?

More than 13,000 circulation strike Liberty Seated Half Dimes, With Legend have been certified, with many dates being represented by several hundred to just over a thousand coins certified. Prices are moderate through Gem grades and finer for the more common dates but climb in expense once you hit the upper register of the condition census. Higher prices are expected for the 1861/0, and coins minted from 1863 through 1867.

The only known 1870-S coin is seldom offered for sale and most recently sold for $3,120,000. A few hundred Proof Liberty Seated Half Dimes, With Legend have been certified, including some Cameo and Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo pieces. Prices are fairly uniform and moderate for all dates up to Gem, expensive finer. Cameo and Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo pieces have slightly higher premiums.

CoinWeek Liberty Seated Half Dime, With Legend Date-by-Date Analysis

1870-S Liberty Seated Half Dime. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1870-S Liberty Seated Half Dime. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

Extended Coverage on CoinWeek

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

Rare U.S. coin expert and CoinWeek contributor Greg Reynolds talks about the entire Liberty Seated Half Dime series and offers in-depth advice for assembling your collection on a budget.

Design

Obverse:

Lady Liberty wears a long, flowing robe 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, hand supporting a Union shield with a slightly curved banner displaying the word LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. Inside denticles along the raised rim is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with UNITED STATES to the left of Liberty and OF AMERICA to the right.

Reverse:

The reverse has a concentric circle of denticles inside a raised rim, within which is another circle formed by an elaborate wreath of leaves and seed heads of corn, wheat, oak, and maple (no maple seeds are apparent). A ribbon ties the ends of the plants at the bottom and there is a slight gap between the seed heads at the top – though two leaves cross to complete the enclosure around the denomination HALF DIME, each word on a separate line. With Legend Liberty Seated Half Dimes were produced at Philadelphia (all years), New Orleans (1860), and San Francisco (1863-1873). The S and O mintmarks are at the bottom below the wreath, though S mintmarks from 1870 through early 1872 appear within the wreath, above the bow and below the word DIME.

Varieties

A few varieties are known, including the 1859 and 1860 Hollow Stars transitional pieces; the 1861 1 over 0 (1861/0); the 1872-S Mintmark Above and Mintmark Below; and other, more minor die variations.

Coin Specifications

Liberty Seated Half Dime, With Legend
Years of Issue: 1860-73
Mintage (Circulation): High: 3,360,000 (1861); Low: 1 known (1870-S)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,000 (1860, 1861, and 1870); Low: 460 known (1863)
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
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/Thomas Sully design | modified by James B. Longacre

 

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Additional Resources

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

–. A Buyer’s Guide to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States. Zyrus Press.

–. 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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