Liberty cap on pole? Got it.
Rock? Right here.
Although this checklist is imaginary,
it does seem to be what was used to design silver coinage in the mid-
to late 1800s.
What was to become known as the Seated
Liberty design – which used a shield, Liberty cap on pole with Liberty
perched on a rock – can be found on more silver denominations than any
Many designers and engravers participated
in the process of transferring the design concept to the various
denominations over the years and the half dollar was no exception.
COIN VALUES: See how much Seated Liberty half dollar coins
are worth today
Christian Gobrecht's original allegorical representation of Liberty
seated on a large rock (based on a painting by Thomas Sully) is the
dominant feature on the obverse. She holds a shield in one hand and a
pole with Liberty cap in the other. The figure is surrounded by 13
Noted designer/engraver John Reich, probably best
known for his Capped Bust design used on the half dime, dime, quarter
dollar and half dollar, is credited with the Seated Liberty half
dollar reverse. Reich's eagle, with wings raised, shield on breast,
arrows and olive branch in claws, continues the heraldic reverse theme
of earlier coinage.
The Seated Liberty half dollar
experienced many of the same design changes through its 52-year run as
did the half dimes and quarter dollars bearing the design: the
addition of drapery or lack of drapery, and arrows and rays or no
arrows nor rays. The design was discontinued in 1891 but not before
the 20-cent and silver dollar denominations were issued.
There were several pattern design trial pieces struck for the 1838
Patterns are coins struck to try out a new
size or design or denomination or even alloy or type of planchet.
Trial pieces are struck to literally test a die being developed by the
engraver. Two of the patterns for the Seated Liberty obverse show a
design similar to the eagle design adopted – one has the eagle facing
right, the other left. Another pattern shows an eagle in flight facing
left, reminiscent of the obverse design for the Flying Eagle cent.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: