Low circulated grade for 1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar no impediment for collector demand

Stack’s Bowers Galleries offers rarity in Baltimore Expo auction
By , Coin World
Published : 06/13/14
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Stack’s Bowers Galleries' June 27 auction in Baltimore of U.S. coins comprises a wide range from Colonials through double eagles.

The auction is being held at the Whitman Baltimore Coin and Collectibles Expo June 26 to 29 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The auction offers two floor sessions comprising nearly 1,300 lots. An Internet-only component offers nearly 2,100 additional coin lots.

1878-S Seated Liberty 50¢

Despite being graded only Fair 2 by Professional Coin Grading Service, the 1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar in the auction is still a coin many Seated Liberty half dollar collectors likely don’t have in their collection.

Struck from the only known pair of dies, the offered WB-1 variety, as cataloged in the Complete Guide to Seated Liberty Half Dollars by Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert, is one of perhaps 50 to 60 examples known today from a reported mintage of 12,000 coins. 

Coin World’s Coin Values and Collectors Universe list the value of an About Good 3 example at $25,000.

The Stack’s Bowers auction lot description suggests the low mintage of 1878-S half dollars is likely the result of most of the mintage being shipped overseas and subsequently melted. The U.S. Mint’s demand for smaller denomination coins dropped sharply after passage Feb. 28, 1878, of the Bland-Allison Act.

The act required the purchase of large quantities of domestically mined silver that was required to be struck into dollars. Millions of Morgan dollars were struck in 1878 as a result.

Long-hoarded silver coinage came flooding back into circulation, diminishing the need for large mintages of smaller coins.

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