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HomeUS CoinsLiberty Seated Quarter, Arrows and Rays (1853) | CoinWeek

Liberty Seated Quarter, Arrows and Rays (1853) | CoinWeek

1853 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1853 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

The discovery of gold in California and the western frontier in the late 1840s and early 1850s had an extraordinary impact on not just the American economy but on economies throughout the western hemisphere and parts of Europe. The free flow of gold hastened the country’s westward expansion and created new markets for agricultural goods, supplies, and infrastructure. The discovery also upset the fragile balance between the prices of gold and silver.

By 1853, $1.00 face value in United States silver coins could be exchanged for $1.06 in gold. The predictable result was that silver coins were withdrawn from circulation, hoarded, or melted. For all practical purposes, the only silver coins circulating were the billon silver Three-Cent Pieces introduced in 1851. The silver content of the “trimes” had been deliberately set below its face value to prevent what was now happening to other silver coins.

To stop speculation on these coins and their wholesale melting, United States Mint Director George Eckert sought approval from Congress to reduce their silver content. Despite the objection of some who feared that debasement would effectively put the nation on a gold standard, Congress acted. With the passage of the Act of February 21, 1853, the silver content of the half dime, the dime, the quarter, and the half dollar was slightly reduced, while that of the trime and the silver dollar remained the same.

The weight of the quarter was reduced from 6.68 to 6.22 grams, and to make the lower-weight quarters easily identifiable, an arrowhead was added to each side of the obverse date and rays extending outward from the eagle were added to the reverse. Both quarters struck at the old weight (without arrows) and the new weight (with arrows) were struck in 1853, creating two collectible types for the same year.

The weight change had the desired effect, and though the heavier older coins continued to disappear from circulation, the new lower-weight silver coins circulated freely, ending the coin shortage. Over 15 million Liberty Seated Quarters With Arrows and Rays were minted in 1853, more than the combined total of all quarters minted from 1838 through early ’53. In 1854, the rays were abandoned, as it was determined that their inclusion dramatically reduced the life of the dies. The arrow motif remained in place for quarter issues of 1854 and ’55.

How Much Are Liberty Seated Quarters with Arrows and Rays Worth?

Over 4,000 business strike Seated Arrows and Rays Quarters have been certified, though fewer than 500 are New Orleans Mint issues. Prices are modest up to MS60 for Philadelphia pieces, and to AU55 for New Orleans examples and the 1853/4 variety. Prices then rise to expensive and very expensive, particularly as Gem and finer.

Only five Proof examples are believed to have been minted, originally in sets along with half dimes, dimes, and half dollars but since broken apart. Population reports show eight Proof examples–indicating one or more resubmissions. These include a couple of quite expensive Cameo pieces.

Liberty Seated Quarter, Arrows and Rays Design


On the obverse is a full-length representation of Liberty wearing long, flowing robes, seated on a rock, and 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 across which is a slightly curved banner displaying the word LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests, and flanked on each side by a short arrowhead. Inside denticles along the raised rim, 13 six-pointed 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 of the cap.


The reverse has a centered left-facing eagle, with extended but partly folded wings. The eagle clutches three arrows in its left claw and an olive branch in its right. A Union shield is placed over the chest, and many radiating lines extend from behind the eagle on all sides nearly to the surrounding legends. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA forms a concentric arc around the top two-thirds of the surface, inside the denticles circling the rim but beyond the ends of the rays. The denomination QUAR. DOL. is at the bottom, visually completing the circle of text.

Liberty Seated Arrows and Rays quarters were minted at Philadelphia and New Orleans, and the O mintmark is located above the denomination, just below the crossed ends of the branch and the arrows and on top of the ends of some rays.

Coin Specifications

Liberty Seated Quarter, No Motto, Arrows and Rays
Year of Issue: 1853
Mintage (Circulation): High: 15,210,000 (1853); Low: 1,332,000 (1853-O)
Mintage (Proof): 5 (1853)
Alloy: 90% silver and 10% copper
Weight: 6.22 g
Diameter: 24.30 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from sketches by Titian Peale/Thomas Sully
REV Designer: John Reich and William Kneass


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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.

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.

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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

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