Know your U.S. coins: Seated Liberty dollar

Thirty-three years isn't a very long life by most people's reckoning. But if the Seated Liberty silver dollar design had a tombstone that's the story the dates 1840 to 1873 would tell.

It was just three years after the Seated Liberty design was used on the half dime that the Seated Liberty silver dollar was introduced.

COIN VALUES: See how much Seated Liberty dollar coins are worth today

By the time a new design for the silver dollar was presented (William Barber's Trade dollar, which was a variation of the Seated Liberty design), the concept of a Seated Liberty with Liberty cap, pole and shield seemed to have run its course.

Only one other denomination would be struck with the design after production of the silver dollar ceased in 1873 – the short-lived 20-cent coin.

Both the silver dollar and the half dime denominations bearing the Christian Gobrecht-Robert Hughes-Thomas Sully concept were discontinued in 1873.

It would be almost another 20 years before the design disappeared from the U.S. Mint engravers' repertoire altogether.

There are some similarities to the Trade dollar design adopted in 1873: a seated allegorical figure representing Liberty and an eagle on the reverse. But the similarity ends there.

The Seated Liberty silver dollar retains drapery behind Liberty's left elbow. The design doesn't require the arrows and rays used on previous incarnations of the design on lower denominations because the silver content remained steady throughout its run.

The only noticeable difference during the 33 years this type of silver dollar was struck occurred in 1866 when Treasury officials decreed all $20 gold double eagles, $10 gold eagles, $5 gold half eagles, silver dollars, half dollars and quarter dollars were to incorporate the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the reverse.

On the Seated Liberty design, the motto appears on a ribbon below the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA legend and above the eagle's head. The denomination, located beneath the eagle's feet, is expressed as ONE DOL. The eagle still bears a shield on its breast and arrows and an olive branch in its talons. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears along the top half of the reverse.

Seated Liberty dollars are collected by date and Mint mark and by major varieties. The key and semi-key dates are so numerous (21 and eight respectively) that most collectors shy away from trying to complete such a set.

A complete collection of Seated Liberty dollars, dated 1840 through 1873 comprises 46 coins.

Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:

Cents and half cents:

2- and 3-cent coins:


Dimes and half dimes:


Half dollars:


Gold coins:

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