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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). Numerous variations exist throughout the series, different sizes of reverse lettering and different date numeral sizes.
The Mint Act of February 21, 1853 lowered the weight and silver content of virtually all silver coins in an attempt to prevent massive melting due to rising silver prices. To denote the coins struck with the new specifications, two arrows were placed alongside the date on the obverse and rays were added around the eagle on the reverse. The rays were removed the next year, in 1854, creating a one-year type coin for the previous year. In 1854 and 1855 the arrows remained on the obverse, but were removed before 1856, when the old design resumed, now with the new weight.
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. 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