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The Seated Liberty Half Dollar represented the face of the denomination for much of the 19th century, with pieces struck from 1839 until 1891. The “Seated Liberty” design was an old concept that was based on Britannia, who had been featured on British coins. Artist Thomas Sully made a number of sketches, which assistant engraver Christian Gobrecht would modify to become suitable for coinage.
"Without Motto", on Seated Liberty Half Dollars, refers to the absence of the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" (which did not appear on the reverse of these coins until 1866).
In 1853 when the authorized weight of the half dollar was reduced from 206.25 grains to 192 grains, the change was noted on the coins by the addition of a small arrowhead to each side of the date and rays above the eagle on the reverse. The Liberty Seated half dollar style of 1854-1855 with arrows at date is the same as used in 1853 except that the reverse rays have been deleted. Thus, the 1854-55 halves stand as a distinct type.
The 1855-S Seated Liberty Half Dollar represents the first year of production for the denomination at the San Francisco Mint, which had opened the year prior. Virtually the entire mintage of 129,950 coins was released and heavily circulated, leaving very few survivors. The single, finest known 1855-S Seated Liberty Half Dollar is currently graded NGC MS 67. The coin sold in 1996 while in a PCGS MS66 holder for $72,600. Eight years later in 2004, the same coin in the NGC MS 67 holder for $92,000.
Depicts the figure of Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom during the movement of Neoclassicism (and in fact traces its roots back to Ancient Greece and Rome). Liberty's right hand rested on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word "Liberty". The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. The date of the coin appeared on the bottom below Liberty. Arrows are on each side of the date. Thirteen six-pointed stars around the rim, commemorating the original thirteen colonies.
A left-facing bald eagle about to take flight, with a striped shield upon its breast. The eagle clutched an olive branch of peace in its right talons and a group of arrows in its left talons. Above the eagle around the rim were the words "United States of America" and below the eagle around the rim lay the coin denomination.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA