US Coins

Seated Liberty dollars set solid in Stack’s Bowers offering

The Seated Liberty dollar type was struck from 1840 to 1873. In the introduction to the Ray Ballinger Collection of the series that was offered on June 17 by Stack’s Bowers Galleries, the catalogers say it is among the most misunderstood by numismatists. Many were struck for bullion depositors who requested dollars in exchange for silver and were also intended for use in the export trade. The result was that few circulated in the United States.

The Ballinger collection was complete but for the 1870-S issue, and starting the offering was an 1840 example, graded About Uncirculated 50 by Professional Grading Service, that sold for $2,160. After the Gobrecht dollars of 1836 and 1839, the 1840 Seated Liberty dollar was the first year of the type to be struck widely for circulation, using the design that had already appeared on the quarter dollar in 1838.

The issue is popular today as the first year of the design type, and this one featured “a thin veil of smoky silver and golden-olive patina” across well-struck, frosty surfaces.

1851 dollar leads offering

Leading the consignment at $45,600 was one of just 1,300 1851 Seated Liberty dollars struck. The low mintage was the result of few depositors wanting dollars that year, and most of those produced were likely melted, resulting in Stack’s Bowers estimating that perhaps as few as 30 survive today. This one, graded AU-58 by PCGS, has sold several times in recent memory, bringing a robust $70,500 in 2013, $31,725 in 2016, and $36,000 in 2021. In its most recent offering, the catalogers praised its sharp strike and intense frosty to semi-reflective luster, adding, “Lovely surfaces exhibit dominant silver and olive-gray iridescence, with vivid undertones of mottled powder blue and reddish-rose.”

Coveted CAC gold sticker

Also impressive was an 1855 Seated Liberty dollar graded PCGS AU-50 that was housed in an old PCGS holder of the type used in the early 1990s and carrying a coveted gold Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. It sold for a huge $26,400, eclipsing the $6,462.50 that it sold for in a 2015 auction (with the CAC gold sticker). To put the recent price in perspective, Heritage offered a non-CAC-stickered 1855 PCGS AU-50 dollar in its January 2022 Florida United Numismatists auctions. That piece sold for $11,700. Even a non-stickered PCGS AU-58 example sold for $14,400 at a February 2023 sale.

Bidders on June 17 must have responded to the luster, along with, “brilliant surfaces that exhibit iridescent rose-russet and powder blue toning around the obverse periphery,” and an overall appeal that the cataloger called gorgeous.

Four CC-Mint dollars

The four Seated Liberty dollars struck at the Carson City Mint from 1870 to 1873 are always popular with collectors. The Ballinger collection offered one of each, all graded by PCGS.

The 1870-CC example, graded AU-53, sold for $7,200.

Rusty Goe in his book The Confident Carson City Coin Collector, 1870-1874, estimates that about 135 of the 1871-CC dollars survive from an original mintage of 1,376 pieces, and the offered AU-50 example, with untoned surfaces and a few scattered marks, realized $20,400.

The 1872-CC dollar also saw a small mintage of 3,150, of which Goe estimates no more than 300 survive today and Ballinger’s AU-55 representative, with a touch of golden-russet patina, sold for $10,200.

Priciest of the four CC-Mint issues was the group’s 1873-CC dollar in AU-50, which sold for $43,200.

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