The Seated Liberty portrait designs appeared on most regular-issue silver United States coinage from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which featured the Goddess of Liberty in a Seated Liberty design included the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and until 1873 the silver dollar. Another coin that appeared exclusively in the Seated Liberty design was the twenty cent piece. This coin was produced from 1875 to 1878, and was discontinued because it looked very similar to the quarter. Seated Liberty coinage was minted at the main United States Mint in Philadelphia, as well as the branch mints in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City.
The basic obverse design of the Seated Liberty coinage, designed by Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht and drawn by Thomas Sully, consisted of the figure of Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom during the movement of Neoclassicism (and in fact traces its roots back to Ancient Greece and Rome). Although it had fallen out of favor in Europe by 1830, Neoclassicism remained in vogue in the United States until after the American Civil War. Liberty's right hand rested on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word "Liberty". The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. The date of the coin appeared on the bottom below Liberty.
The basic reverse design of Seated Liberty coins depended on the denomination. The size of half dimes and dimes necessitated a smaller array of elements. On these coins, the reverse consistently featured a wreath around the words "half dime" or "one dime". Before 1860, this wreath consisted of laurel leaves, a traditional Neoclassical image, but beginning that year, the wreath was enlarged and was filled not only with leaves, but also traditional American agricultural products, such as corn and wheat. On quarter, half dollars, and silver dollar coins, the reverse featured a central eagle about to take flight, with a striped shield upon its breast. The eagle clutched an olive branch of peace in its right talons and a group of arrows in its left talons. Above the eagle around the rim were the words "United States of America" and below the eagle around the rim lay the coin denomination. Beginning in 1866, the coins featured a ribbon with the motto "In God We Trust" above the eagle.
When the first Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes appeared in 1837, the obverse contained no stars. There are two varieties; the large date and the small date. For the dime, these two types can be distinguished by noting the "3" and the "7" in the date. In the large date variety, the "3" has a pointy serif at top, and the horizontal element of the "7" is straight. In the small date variety, the "3" has a rounded serif, and there is small a knob, or bulge, in the "7" horizontal element. Only the Philadelphia Mint made both varieties. The small date is slightly rarer. The New Orleans Mint made only one variety. For the half dime, the small date can be distinguished by the fact that it is slightly bent in a "smile" orientation, similar to the Bust type of half dime. The large date can be distinguished by the fact that the date is more in a straight line, similar to dates of later years for the Seated Liberty. Only the Philadelphia Mint made half dimes in this year.
The Liberty Seated dime of 1838 minted in New Orleans, was the first U.S. coin struck anywhere outside of Philadelphia. In other words, this is the first branch mint coin.
The next year, the coins featured thirteen six-pointed stars around the rim, commemorating the original thirteen colonies.
The Seated Liberty coins featured a few minor design changes over the years. Around 1840 (the exact date depends upon the denomination), extra drapery was added to Liberty's left elbow.
In 1853 and 1873, the U.S. Mint changed the weight of each denomination of silver coins. Both times, arrows were added to the coins on each side of the date. These were removed from coins in 1856 and 1875, respectively. In 1853, the mint also placed rays around the eagle on the reverse of half dollars and quarters, a feature which endured for that one year only.
In 1860 the U.S. Mint eliminated the stars on the obverse of Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes, replacing them with the legend "United States of America", which had previously appeared around the wreath on the reverse of the coins. Before this time, half dimes and dimes minted in New Orleans and San Francisco had featured their mintmarks inside the wreaths. Afterwards, the "O" and "S" (and, later, the "CC" for Carson City) mintmarks were located below the wreath next to the rim. On quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars, the mintmarks were always placed below the eagle but above the coin currency on the reverse.
Many people collect Seated coinage by variety. This can range from a repunched mintmark to the position of a date on the coin to a die crack at various stages. This type of collecting has been popular with Bust half dollars for well over 100 years. Seated coin collecting by variety has grown over the last 30 years with the formation of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club.
The Seated Liberty design remained standard on all American coins ranging from half dimes to half dollars for decades, but by 1879 — the year after the Bland-Allison Act caused a drastic curtailment in the mintages of Seated Liberty half dollars, quarters, and even dimes until 1883, there was increased criticism and calls for its replacement, partially due to changing artistic tastes and perceived "blandness" — Wendell Phillips admonished college students to "sit not, like the figure on our silver coin, ever looking backward." This led to the new "Barber Head" design, approved by President Harrison in 1891 and which began minting a year later, although it too would soon be criticized for "blandness," leading to the Barber coinage's replacement by the Mercury dime, the Standing Liberty quarter, and the Walking Liberty half dollar, all making their debut in 1916 (the Mercury dime included the motto "In God We Trust," making that motto's placement on U.S. coins universal, as the motto was not on the Barber dime, due to space limitations).
The quarter, short for quarter dollar, is a United States coin worth 25 cents, one-quarter of a dollar. It has a diameter of 0.955 inch (24.26 mm) and a thickness of 0.069 inch (1.75 mm). The coin sports the profile of George Washington on its obverse, and its reverse design has changed frequently. It has been produced on and off since 1796 and consistently since 1831.
Mint-made errors are errors during the minting process. Groups of coins with distinctive characteristics are known as varieties. The term variety applies to coins with both intended and unintended differences while the term error refers only to coins with unintended differences. Nevertheless, not all errors are varieties. Although there may be many identical examples of some errors, others are unique. For example, there may be many indistinguishable examples of coins with a specific die crack, while off-center strikes tend to be unique. Being unique does not mean that an error is valuable. Although no other coin may be similar to a coin with an off-center strike, off-center strikes happen often enough that buyers can choose from many examples each of which varies slightly from the other. Mint error coins can be the result of deterioration of the minting equipment, accidents or malfunctions during the minting process, or intentional interventions by mint personnel. Accidental error coins are perhaps the most numerous and in modern minting are usually very rare, making them valuable to numismatists. Intentional intervention by mint personnel does not necessarily include a deliberate attempt to create an error, but usually involves an action intended to improve quality that miscarries and creates error coins instead. Errors can be the result of defective planchets, defective dies or the result of mistakes made during striking. The planchet, die, and striking classification system happens to correspond with the mintmarks of the three largest U.S. mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Not all errors fall neatly within the categories. Sometimes design elements are missing from coins because die crevices are filled with grease. Labels used to identify specific categories of errors sometimes describe the cause of the error. Other errors names describe what the viewer sees when looking at the coin while others have names that were adapted for use. The result is that some errors are known by multiple names. Filled die errors are also known as missing design element errors and as strike throughs. As is noted below under the discussion of missing design element coins, some errors have multiple causes. A rare error that sold for $5462.50 on Heritage Auctions in August 2010 is an undated U.S nickel struck on top of a 1960 5 centavos. Foreign coins struck on a U.S coin planchet or vice versa are very uncommon and hold a high value.
A nickel is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866. Its diameter is 0.835 inches (21.21 mm) and its thickness is 0.077 inches (1.95 mm). Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop, and currently the coin represents less than 1% of the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2018, over 1.26 billion nickels were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints.
The United States Mint is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The first United States Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.
The dime, in United States usage, is a ten-cent coin, one tenth of a United States dollar, labeled formally as "one dime". The denomination was first authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. The dime is the smallest in diameter and is the thinnest of all U.S. coins currently minted for circulation, being 0.705 inches in diameter and 0.053 in (1.35 mm) in thickness. The obverse of the current dime depicts the profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the reverse boasts an olive branch, a torch, and an oak branch, from left to right respectively. As of 2011, the dime coin cost 5.65 cents to produce.
The half dollar, sometimes referred to as the half for short or 50-cent piece, is a United States coin worth 50 cents, or one half of a dollar. It is the largest United States circulating coin currently produced in both size and weight, being 1.205 inches in diameter and 0.085 in (2.16 mm) in thickness, and is twice the weight of the quarter. The coin's design has undergone a number of changes throughout its history. Since 1964, the half dollar depicts the profile of President John F. Kennedy on the obverse and the Seal of the President of the United States on the reverse.
The half dime, or half disme, was a silver coin, valued at five cents, formerly minted in the United States.
The Franklin half dollar is a coin that was struck by the United States Mint from 1948 to 1963. The fifty-cent piece pictures Founding Father Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse. A small eagle was placed to the right of the bell to fulfill the legal requirement that half dollars depict the figure of an eagle. Produced in 90 percent silver with a reeded edge, the coin was struck at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints. As of April 26, 2019, the melt value of the $0.50 coin was approximately $5.46.
The Mercury dime is a ten-cent coin struck by the United States Mint from late 1916 to 1945. Designed by Adolph Weinman and also referred to as the Winged Liberty Head dime, it gained its common name because the obverse depiction of a young Liberty, identifiable by her winged Phrygian cap, was confused with the Roman god Mercury. Weinman is believed to have used Elsie Stevens, the wife of lawyer and poet Wallace Stevens, as a model. The coin's reverse depicts a fasces, symbolizing unity and strength, and an olive branch, signifying peace.
The American twenty-cent piece is a coin struck from 1875 to 1878, but only for collectors in the final two years. Proposed by Nevada Senator John P. Jones, it proved a failure due to confusion with the quarter, to which it was close in both size and value.
The Seated Liberty dollar was a dollar coin struck by the United States Mint from 1840 to 1873 and designed by its chief engraver, Christian Gobrecht. It was the last silver coin of that denomination to be struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which temporarily ended production of the silver dollar for American commerce. The coin's obverse is based on that of the Gobrecht dollar, which had been minted experimentally from 1836 to 1839. However, the soaring eagle used on the reverse of the Gobrecht dollar was not used; instead, the United States Mint (Mint) used a heraldic eagle, based on a design by late Mint Chief Engraver John Reich first utilized on coins in 1807.
The Walking Liberty half dollar is a silver 50-cent piece or half dollar coin that was issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947; it was designed by Adolph A. Weinman, a well-known sculptor and engraver.
The Manila Mint was a coinage mint that briefly served as a branch of the United States Mint, located in Manila, now the capital city of the Philippines.
The quarter eagle was a gold coin issued by the United States with a denomination of two hundred and fifty cents, or two dollars and fifty cents. It was given its name in the Coinage Act of 1792, as a derivation from the US ten-dollar eagle coin. Its purchasing power in 1800 would be equivalent to $71.12 in 2015 dollars.
The Barber coinage consists of a dime, quarter, and half dollar designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. They were minted between 1892 and 1916, though no half dollars were struck in the final year of the series.
The three-dollar piece was a gold coin produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1854 to 1889. Authorized by the Act of February 21, 1853, the coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The obverse bears a representation of Lady Liberty wearing a headdress of a Native American princess and the reverse a wreath of corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco.
The half eagle is a United States coin that was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929 and in commemorative and bullion coins since 1983. Composed almost entirely of gold, its face value of five dollars is half that of the eagle coin. Production of the half eagle was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, and it was the first gold coin minted by the United States.
The gold dollar or gold one-dollar piece is a gold coin that was struck as a regular issue by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1849 to 1889. The coin had three types over its lifetime, all designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The Type 1 issue has the smallest diameter of any United States coin minted to date.
"Draped Bust" was the name given to a design of United States coins. It appeared on much of the regular-issue copper and silver United States coinage, 1796–1807. It was designed by engraver Robert Scot.
The numismatic history of the United States began with Colonial coins such as the pine tree shilling and paper money; most notably the foreign but widely accepted Spanish piece of eight, ultimately descended from the Joachimsthaler and the direct ancestor of the U.S. Dollar.