Britannia exerts influence on American Seated Liberty design

Allegorical figures both take a seat on coin design
By , Coin World
Published : 01/16/16
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Editor's note: this is the second part of a story about the influence, imitation and intersection of American and world coin designs. The story was originally published in the February 2016 monthly issue of Coin World.

In 1836, Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design debuted on the first silver dollars struck since 1804, and it would eventually be used for six different denominations, the most uses of an American coin design for the largest number of denominations.

Gobrecht’s work, based on motifs by Thomas Sully and Titian Peale, shows Liberty, seated, with a pole and Liberty cap in her left hand and a shield beside her.  

Read the rest of this feature on how world coins inspired notable U.S. coins:

Following the half dime and dime in 1837 were the quarter dollar in 1838, the half dollar coin in 1839 and the 20-cent coin in 1875 (a second dollar coin bearing the Seated Liberty design paired with a new reverse debuted in 1840).

The Trade dollar, issued from 1873 to 1885, features a slimmer Liberty facing left, the opposite direction from Gobrecht’s Liberty, in a design by William Barber.

The influence of the United Kingdom’s Britannia on both U.S. designs is unmistakable.

Britannia has a long and storied history on coinage of what is now the United Kingdom. Rooted in antiquity, the figure has become synonymous with Great Britain, and now the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

The Roman habit of personifying continents and countries as female figures introduced Britannia on the coins of Emperor Hadrian (responsible for Hadrian’s Wall, across the north of England) in A.D. 119 and upon those of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138 to 161) and Commodus (180 to 192).  

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Coins of earlier rulers mention Britannia but do not show the allegorical figure. 

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