Liberty Seated Dollar (1836-1873)

When Christian Gobrecht's Seated Liberty silver dollar design was finally adopted for circulating coins in 1840, it appeared in a noticeably modified form. The seated figure itself was sculpted anew by Robert Ball Hughes, while the bold flying eagle used on the rare issues of 1836-39 silver dollars was set aside in favor of the conventional heraldic eagle reverse that had been used on the fractional silver coins since 1807. This was done so that the dollar would be in conformance with the Seated Liberty Quarter and Half Dollar pieces, which were already circulating with the old style reverse. There is also some evidence that the Flying Eagle reverse did not strike up well, and it may have been replaced on the silver dollar for that reason.

Coinage of the Seated Liberty Silver Dollar was modest in most years. This denomination was already well represented by the many Spanish eight-reales pieces in circulation, and there existed little domestic need for the American version. There were occasional spikes in the mintage figures when silver dollars were needed for export, but this was the exception to the rule. Most coins of this type were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. The branch mints frequently received silver dollar dies that went unused, and only occasionally did they produce coins.

While Seated Liberty silver dollars were collected by date from the outset, most numismatists focused on acquiring proof examples. Currency pieces were sought only when proofs were prohibitively rare, as with the 1853 silver dollar. Otherwise, the collecting of non-proofs and branch mint coins was largely unknown until the 20th Century. Seated Liberty silver dollars have never been especially popular with collectors, though they haveexperienced more interest since the formation of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club in 1974.

Mint state Seated Liberty Silver Dollars are rare, with just a few exceptions, and even nice circulated examples are quite elusive. Completing a Seated Liberty Silver Dollar series by date and mint is possible, though the great rarity of the mysterious 1870-S Dollar has caused it to be excluded by most collectors. Also quite rare, but collectable, are the Carson City Mint dollars of 1871-73.

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