User:RHM22/Seated Liberty dollar

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Seated Liberty dollar
United States
Value 1 U.S. dollar
Mass 26.73 g
Diameter 38.1 mm
Edge Reeded
Composition 90% Silver
10% Copper
Years of minting 1840–1873
Seated liberty dollar obverse.jpg
Design Liberty seated
Designer Christian Gobrecht
Design date 1836
Seated liberty dollar reverse.jpg
Design A left-facing bald eagle
Designer Christian Gobrecht
Design date 1840

The Seated Liberty dollar was the last silver dollar struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which officially ended production of that denomination. The coin, struck from 1840 to 1873, succeeded the Gobrecht dollar, which was minted on a trial basis in order to determine whether or not the public would approve of the silver dollar, which hadn't been struck since 1804.

The design was based on the Gobrecht dollar, but the soaring eagle used on the reverse of that coin was replaced with a heraldic eagle. All Seated Liberty dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint until 1846, when production began at the New Orleans Mint. In the late 1840s, the price of silver increased rapidly due to an influx of gold caused by the California gold rush; this led to widespread hoarding and melting of American silver coins. The Coinage Act of 1853 lowered the silver content of all coins denominated higher than five cents except for the dollar. Later, production increased, leading to a surplus of the coins.

In 1866, "In God We Trust" was added the dollar as well as other denominations following its introduction to United States coinage. Silver dollar production was officially halted by the Coinage Act of 1873, which authorized the trade dollar.


Chief Engraver of the United States Mint Christian Gobrecht created the Seated Liberty design.

In 1806, President James Madison officially ordered all silver dollar mintage halted, though production had not occurred since 1804.[1] This was done in part to prevent the coins from entering circulation in foreign nations, causing a strain on the fledgling United States Mint.[1] In 1831, Mint Director Samuel Moore requested that President Andrew Jackson lift the restriction against dollar coin production; the president obliged in April of that year.[2] Despite the approval to strike the coins, no silver dollars were minted until 1836.[2]

Design creation[edit]

In the summer of 1835, newly appointed Mint Director Robert M. Patterson solicited artists Titian Peale and Thomas Sully to prepare new designs for American coinage.[3] In an August 1, 1835 letter, Patterson proposed that Sully create an obverse design consisting of Liberty seated on a boulder, holding a "liberty pole" in her right hand.[3] He also propositioned Sully to create a reverse design consisting of an "eagle flying, and rising in flight, amidst the constellation of irregularly dispersed of twenty-four stars".[3] Patterson requested that the bird appear natural; he criticized the eagle designs then in use on the nation's coinage as being unnatural due largely to the shield often placed on the eagle's breast.[3] Later in 1835, Christian Gobrecht was appointed chief engraver of the Mint.[2] Sully prepared sketches, which Gobrecht used as a guide in engraving copper plates.[4] The plates were approved by various government officials, and the production of trial strikes was allowed to commence.[4]

Circulation strikes[edit]

Following a series of trial strikes and modifications throughout 1836, the first of what would come to be known as the Gobrecht dollars were minted in December of that year.[5] The dollars of 1836 were minted with a silver fineness of .892 (89.2%) silver,[5] a specification set forth in the Coinage Act of 1792.[6] The legal silver purity was changed from 89.2% to .900 (90%) by a law passed on January 18, 1837; all further Gobrecht dollars were struck in that fineness.[3] Coinage continued in small amounts until 1839, when official production of the Gobrecht dollar ceased.[7] Production of the Gobrecht dollar remained low because Patterson opted to issue the coins only on a trial basis in order to determine if they would prove viable in American commerce.[8]


Prior to full scale production, Patterson reviewed the coin designs then in use, including that of the Gobrecht dollar.[8] The director opted to replace Gobrecht's soaring eagle reverse with a left-facing bald eagle based on a design by former Mint engraver John Reich,[8] a design first used on silver[9] and gold[10] coinage in 1807. Also of concern to Mint officials was the relief of the Seated Liberty design, which was viewed as being too high to be fully struck in large quantities.[8] In response, Patterson hired Robert Ball Hughes, a Philadelphia artist, to modify the design.[8] As part of Hughes' modifications, the head was enlarged, the drapery was thickened and the relief was lowered overall.[8]

A small production run of 12,500 was minted in July 1840 in order to allow bullion depositors to become familiar with the new coins before having their silver struck into dollars.[11] Bullion producers began depositing the silver required to initiate heavier production later that year, and 41,000 pieces were minted in November, followed by a mintage of 7,505 in December.[11] Deposits increased the next year, which saw a mintage of 173,000 pieces.[12] All coins were produced at the Philadelphia Mint until 1846, when 59,000 of the coins were struck at the Mint at New Orleans.[12]

Silver shortage[edit]

Following the discovery of gold in California, a large amount of gold coins began appearing in American commercial channels.[13] The influx caused the intrinsic value of silver coins to increase, prompting a widespread removal of the coins from circulation.[13] In 1850, gold was discovered in Australia, causing further removal of silver coins, which were exported abroad and melted domestically for their bullion value.[13] In the fiscal year of 1848, $3 million worth of silver was imported, while $4.8 million worth was exported.[13] The silver deficit in American commerce began to fluctuate, which resulted in low mintage numbers for the silver dollar; 1,300 and 1,100 were struck in 1851 and 1852 respectively.[12] In response to the lack of silver coinage in circulation, Congress approved a new coinage denomination, the three-cent piece, in March 1851.[14] The silver purity of the three-cent piece was lowered from 90% fine silver, the standard for all other silver coins then in production, to .750 (75%) fine.[15]

In February 1853, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1853.[14] The Act lowered the silver weight of every coin from the half dime to the half dollar by 6.9%, though the dollar remained unaffected.[14] It is unknown precisely why Congress chose to exempt the dollar from the silver coinage overhaul, however numismatic historian R.W. Julian suggests that it was done due to its status as the "flagship" of American coins.[14] The Act also prevented bullion producers from receiving minor coins for their bullion deposits; silver dollars could still be requested, but at a 0.5% premium.[14] Another provision in the Act required that all minor silver coins be paid for in gold, thus regulating the marketplace.[14] Julian also notes that the Act instituted a "de facto gold standard" in the United States, because the provision requiring silver coinage be paid out in gold effectively demonetized silver.[16] This practice was not adhered to by Mint officials, however.[14] Mint officials began using silver coins to purchase silver bullion, resulting in a Mint surplus and thus large production totals.[16] Newly appointed Mint director James Ross Snowden continued this practice, believing that the Mint should produce a large amount of silver coins.[16] The large mintages resulted in an excess of silver dollars in circulation, despite the earlier shortage of the coins.[14] The silver coin surplus led to complaints from business owners and bankers, and beginning in 1858, the Mint was forced by the Treasury to adhere to the earlier law requiring all silver purchased by the Mint to be paid in gold.[16]

Branch mint coinage and further production[edit]

In late 1858 and 1859, the Treasury authorized production of silver dollars at both the New Orleans and San Francisco Mints,[17] despite the fact that the coins had already been minted at the former in both 1846 and 1850.[18] R.W. Julian states his belief that continued production of the dollar had little to do with Oriental trade, suggesting instead that the coins were sent to the Western United States for use there.[17] Conversely, Q. David Bowers, another numismatic historian, believes that most Seated Liberty dollars produced after 1853 were shipped to China in order to pay for luxury goods, including tea and silk.[17]

James Pollock requested Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to authorize the addition of a religious motto to United States coinage.

In the late 1850s, Snowden began petitioning the Treasury to allow a redesign of the United States coins.[19] Snowden believed that a redesign would increase mintage figures, improving the public image of the Mint.[19] A new cent design was authorized and modifications were made to the dime and half dime, though no other coinage redesign was approved.[19] After the outbreak of the American Civil War, silver coins became scarce once again.[19] In April 1863, new Mint Director James Pollock argued that the silver dollar be eliminated, noting in a letter that the coin "no longer enters into our monetary system. The few pieces made for Asiatic and other foreign trade and are not seen in circulation."[19]

In November 1861, Reverend M.R. Watkinson suggested in a letter that some sort of religious motto should be placed on American coinage to reflect the increasing religiosity of United States citizens following the outbreak of the Civil War.[20] In an October 21, 1863 report to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Pollock expressed his own desire to emblazon American coins with a religious motto, stating:

I would respectfully and earnestly ask the attention of the department to the proposition, in my former report, to introduce a motto upon our coins expressive of a national reliance on divine protection, and a distinct and unequivocal national recognition of the divine sovereignty. We claim to be a Christian nation. Why should we not vindicate our character, by honoring the God of nations, in the excercise of our political sovereignty as a nation? Our national coinage should do this. Its legends and devices should declare our trust in God; in him who is the "King of kings and Lord of lords." The motto suggested, "God, our trust," is taken from our national hymn, the "Star Spangled Banner;" the sentiment is familiar to every citizen of our country; it has thrilled the hearts and fallen in song from the lips of millions of American freemen. The time for the introduction of this or a similar motto is propitious and appropriate. 'Tis an hour of national peril and danger, an hour when man's strength is weakness, when our strength and our nation's strength and salvation must be in the God of battles and of nations. Let us reverently acknowledge his sovereignty, and let our coinage declare our trust in God.[21]

The Mint began producing patterns bearing various mottoes, including "God Our Trust" and "In God We Trust"; the latter was ultimately selected, and its first use was on the two-cent piece in 1864.[20] The following year, a law was passed allowing the Treasury to place the motto upon any coin at its discretion.[20] The motto was placed on the silver dollar, as well as various other silver, gold and base metal coins, in 1866.[20]

The coin shortage continued after the end of the Civil War, due largely to the large war debt incurred by the federal government.[22] As a result, silver coinage began to trade at a significant premium to the now ubiquitous greenback currency.[22] As such, the government was reluctant to issue silver coins, in which the intrinsic value exceeded the face value.[22] Despite the value deficit, the Mint continued striking silver coins, which were stored in vaults until such time as they could reenter the marketplace.[22] R.W. Julian estimates that this practice began as early as 1868.[22]

Coinage Act of 1873[edit]

In 1869, Director of the Mint Henry Linderman began advocating the legal demonatization of silver due to increased mining efforts and railroad construction in the American West.[23] Linderman expected that the value of silver would be greatly reduced, and individuals would have the cheap silver cointed into dollars which would then enter American commercial channels, thus inflating the economy.[23] In 1870, Deputy Treasury official John Jay Knox drafted a bill with the intent to solve the silver dilemma.[22] The bill was discussed during five different sessions of Congress, read in full by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and printed in full on multiple occasions[23] before being signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on February 12, 1873.[24] The Coinage Act of 1873 officially demonetized silver by only allowing the deposit of gold for coinage.[24] The act also ended production of the silver dollar and authorized creation of the trade dollar.[24]


  1. ^ a b Bowers, p. 431.
  2. ^ a b c Bowers, p. 495.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bowers, p. 496.
  4. ^ a b Bowers, p. 498.
  5. ^ a b Bowers, p. 504.
  6. ^ Peters, Richard, ed. (1845). The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America. Boston, MA: Charles C. Little and James Brown. pp. 246–251.  External link in |title= (help)
  7. ^ Bowers, p. 505.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Bowers, p. 535.
  9. ^ Yeoman, p. 185.
  10. ^ Yeoman, p. 234.
  11. ^ a b Bowers, p. 537.
  12. ^ a b c Yeoman, p. 214.
  13. ^ a b c d Bowers, p. 538.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Bowers, p. 539.
  15. ^ Yeoman, p. 123.
  16. ^ a b c d Bowers, p. 540.
  17. ^ a b c Bowers, p. 542.
  18. ^ Yeoman, p. 215.
  19. ^ a b c d e Bowers, p. 544.
  20. ^ a b c d Bowers, p. 546.
  21. ^ Chase, Salmon P. (1863). Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the Finances for the Year Ending June 30, 1863. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. pp. 190–191. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f Bowers, p. 547.
  23. ^ a b c Van Allen & Mallis, p. 21.
  24. ^ a b c Van Allen & Mallis, p. 23.


  • Bowers, Q. David (1993). Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States. Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries. ISBN 0-943161-48-7. 
  • Breen, Walter (1988). Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. New York, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-14207-2. 
  • Taxay, Don (1983). The U.S. Mint and Coinage (reprint of 1966 ed.). New York, NY: Sanford J. Durst Numismatic Publications. ISBN 0-915262-68-1. 
  • Van Allen, Leroy C. & Mallis, A. George (1991). Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars. Virginia Beach, Virginia: DLRC Press. ISBN 1-880731-11-8. 
  • Yeoman, R.S. (2010). A Guide Book of United States Coins (63rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, LLC. ISBN 079482767-5. 
Preceded by
Gobrecht Dollar
Dollar Coin of the United States (1840-1873)

Concurrent with:

Liberty Head Gold Dollar - Type I (1849-1854)

Small Head Indian Gold Dollar - Type II (1854-1856)

Large Head Indian Gold Dollar - Type III (1856-1873)

Succeeded by
Morgan Dollar