The portrayal of Liberty shown on Seated coins was favored by Mint Director Robert M. Patterson, who apparently did not like portraits on coins. This representation of Liberty was similar to the figure of Britannia used on copper English coins. Originally the Roman name for the island of Great Britain, Britannia became personified as a goddess, portrayed as a young woman wearing a helmet, wrapped in a garment, often seated on a rock, holding either a spear or a standard, with a shield that was used for support or was simply resting beside her. After Chief Engraver William Kneass was incapacitated by a stroke, second engraver Christian Gobrecht implemented Patterson’s ideas, which were based on drawings by artists Titian Peale and Thomas Sully. The new design appeared on silver dollars in 1836, and then on both dimes and half dimes in 1837. The Liberty Seated half dime had a slightly higher percentage of silver compared to the previous Capped Bust design, and was 0.01 gram lighter.
The No Stars Seated half dime has been called one of the most uncluttered U.S. coin designs, often having a cameo or medal-like appearance with only Liberty and the date on the obverse field. A smaller version of Gobrecht’s 1836 silver dollar, the coin seemed to be popular at the time of issue because many of the 1837 pieces were saved. However, political expediency and a desire for uniformity limited production of the type to just two years. Objections were raised about the lack of stars, which were included on the previous half dime issue to signify the thirteen original states. In 1838, to conform to the Mint’s policy of using similar designs on coins of the same metal, stars were added to the Liberty Seated quarter, dime, and half dime. It is interesting that though the New Orleans 1838 half dimes have no stars and were produced from dies provided by the Philadelphia Mint, the 1838 Philadelphia half dimes do have stars.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
On the obverse a full-length representation of Liberty wears long, flowing robes and is seated on a rock, head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. A circle of dentils lies inside the raised rim.
The reverse has a concentric circle formed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, broken at the bottom by the ribbon that ties the ends of two laurel branches. The branches form another circle inside the text, though the ends are slightly separated at the top, and in the center is the denomination of HALF DIME, each word on a separate line. A circle of dentils lies inside the raised rim. No Stars half dimes were produced at Philadelphia and New Orleans; the O mintmark is located below DIME and above the bows of the ribbon.
Several hundred circulation strike Liberty Seated No Stars half dimes have been certified, but fewer than 100 of those are 1838-dated coins from the New Orleans Mint. One prooflike 1837 piece is reported. Prices are moderate for 1837 half dimes up to near-Gem, expensive as Gem and finer. 1838-O coins are expensive as AU through low Mint State, becoming very expensive as Select Gem or finer. All 1837 proof issues are expensive, and very expensive as Select Gem and finer.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully design
Circulation Mintage: high 1,405,000 (1837), low 70,000 (1838-O)
Proof Mintage:20 (1837 only, estimated)
Denomintion: $0.05 Five Cents, 05/100 Half Dime
Diameter: ±15.5 mm; reeded edge
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±1.34 grams 1840-1853 No Arrows; 1.24 grams 1853-1859
Varieties: There are two major varieties, the 1837 Large Date (showing a vertical peak on the 1 and the date in a curved line) and Small Date (showing a flat top on the 1 and the date more in a straight line).
Additional Resources :
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.