US Coins 1870 Seated Liberty Silver Dollar

US Coins 1870 Seated Liberty Silver Dollar ValueUnited States Coins 1870 Silver Dollar

US Coins 1870 Seated Liberty Silver Dollar

The silver dollar is considered by many to be the cornerstone of the American monetary system. Introduced in 1794, issues for the denomination range from rare to easily attainable. In the case of the Seated Liberty Dollar, produced from 1840 until 1873, many issues fall into the former category. The coins were struck in limited quantities, heavily exported, and later melted, making the number of overall surviving specimens limited. Additionally, many of the survivors show one or multiple problems, such as cleaning, damage, or tooling. Simply stated, assembling a full collection is extremely difficult, especially when considering that only two uncirculated examples of the key date 1870-S are known to exist.

The design of the Seated Liberty Dollar is derived from the Gobrecht Dollars first struck in 1836. These coins were named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, a German immigrant responsible for the designs of many of the gold and silver coins that circulated in the 19th century. The Gobrecht Dollars were technically patterns, although a small number were released directly into circulation. Besides this, no other silver dollars had been produced for circulation since 1804, and many of the early dollars had been exported or otherwise held by banks for their bullion value.

The obverse of the new silver dollar was based on the concept of Britannia, who appeared on British coinage. Artist Thomas Sully made a number of sketches from which assistant engraver Christian Gobrecht executed the designs. The female figure of Liberty is seated on a rock, holding a pole in her hand with a Phrygian cap atop. Her right hand rests on a shield with the inscription LIBERTY. The date is placed below the seated figure, thirteen stars are around, and no further lettering is noted.

The reverse of the Seated Liberty Dollar was somewhat based on an earlier design by John Reich, which had been used on the smaller silver denominations during the 19th century. A bald eagle appears facing to the left, with an olive branch and arrows in its talons. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above the eagle, and the denomination expressed as ONE DOL. appears below. Following the American Civil War, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added on a scroll above the eagle. The same addition had been made to the quarter and half dollar in the same year.

In 1853, to prevent massive hoarding of silver coinage, a new Mint Act was signed into law, reducing the weight of all silver coins except the silver dollar. With no change made to the largest silver denomination, the intrinsic value became higher than the face value. Silver dollars ceased to circulate in America, with the exception of some areas in the west where circulating money was scarce and paper money was not trusted. The denomination came to be used most frequently for export trade, a situation which persisted until the end of the series in 1873.

US Coins

1870 Seated Liberty Silver Dollar             1841 Seated Liberty Half Dollar

1866-1873 Silver Seated Liberty Dollar with Motto History

  As war clouds gathered and the nation raced headlong toward civil war, public sentiment became increasingly philosophical. In 1861, reflecting this national mood, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase seized upon a suggestion from a Pennsylvania minister that the Mint ought to incorporate recognition of the deity on our coins. In a letter to James Pollock, Director of the Mint, Chase wrote: "The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest terms possible this national recognition."
  Almost immediately, Pollock struck a few patterns and forwarded them to Chase. In his accompanying letter, Pollock asserted that the first suggestion for this religious motto, "Our Trust is in God," had too many characters to fit comfortably. The Mint Director recommended "God Our Trust" since he felt it carried the same idea and was more concise. He also preferred the motto to be placed on the reverse above the eagle, within a scroll or ribbon device as an artistic backdrop.
  Pattern half dollars and eagles dated 1861 and 1862 have the words GOD OUR TRUST. From 1863 through 1865, additional patterns were made using GOD OUR TRUST, GOD AND OUR COUNTRY, and IN GOD WE TRUST. It was IN GOD WE TRUST that Secretary Chase finally approved in 1864. It first appeared on the two-cent piece in that year and then later on the Shield nickel in 1866. Patterns dated 1865 with IN GOD WE TRUST were made of the double eagle, eagle, half eagle and the silver quarter, half dollar and dollar. Ultimately, the Mint Act of March 3, 1865 provided the authorization for use of the motto on the regular silver and gold issues.
  The Seated Liberty dollar of 1866, identical to previous issues except for the addition of the motto, was based on the original design by Christian Gobrecht, the former Chief Engraver of the Mint. First used on regular issue coins with the 1837 dime, it was applied to the dollar in 1840. The design depicts Liberty seated on a boulder. She is holding a pole in her left hand topped with a liberty cap. With her right hand she supports the shield of the union inscribed with the word LIBERTY. Thirteen stars surround the figure. The reverse features an eagle with outstretched wings and the Union shield on its breast. The eagle is grasping an olive branch and three arrows. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears in a semicircle around the eagle, and the denomination ONE DOL. appears below. If a particular coin has a mintmark, it is directly under the eagle.
  The design has powerful symbolism. With the use of the liberty cap, it declares freedom. The union shield is symbolic of the unity of the nation. In the throes of the worst conflagration this country ever experienced, it was natural for the people of the mid-19th century to turn to the deity for help and guidance. Placing a religious sentiment on something as familiar as a coin was the equivalent of a national prayer.
  The motto has become very much a part of the American psyche. This was evident when the double eagle and eagle were issued without the motto in 1907. It caused an immediate public controversy, and Congress ordered the motto restored in 1908.
  Although "with motto" dollar mintages were small, the coins were well used by the public. This accounts for the small number of uncirculated pieces that exist. Only about 3.6 million pieces were minted along with 6,060 proofs. There are 15 regular and eight proof issues. The majority were made at the Philadelphia Mint with only two branch mints producing the "with motto" type. Of the Carson City Mint issues of 1870, 71, 72 and 73, the 1870-CC is the easiest to locate. There are also three San Francisco issues. The 1870-S is a major rarity, and the 1873-S, with a reported mintage of 700, is unknown in any collection. That leaves the 1872-S as the only collectable "with motto" dollar from that mint. The Philadelphia issues of 1871 and 1872 are the dates most often seen and are popularly collected as type examples.
  When grading mint state pieces, note that this coin often comes with some parts of the design softly struck and may have many "bag" marks and abrasions. Check the high points of Liberty's right leg and breast and the hair above her eye for signs of wear. Seated Liberty dollars may be seen with a deep patina that can range from lightly mottled to black. Heavily toned specimens should be carefully evaluated to determine whether evidence of circulation is hidden underneath.
  Numismatists generally collect this coin as a "type", because it is difficult to find affordable examples of many dates in this series. A basic collection would have an example of the "no motto" and "with motto" types. One could also include an expensive, but obtainable, Gobrecht pattern or circulation issue of 1836-1839. But no matter which type, grade or date you own, any Seated Liberty dollar is a numismatic treasure.
  In February, 1873 Congress passed the Coinage Act later known as "The Crime of `73," which effectively demonetized silver and put the nation on a gold standard. It would fuel intense debate for the next quarter century. While the Act created a new Trade dollar for use in commerce with the Orient, it abolished the regular issue silver dollar, along with the two-cent piece, the silver dime and the half dime. The silver dollar would not return until 1878, when it reappeared with a new design named for its creator, Chief Engraver George T. Morgan.

1840-1873 Seated Liberty Silver Dollars: Composition and Specifications
  Liberty Seated Silver Dollars were produced at the Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City Mints from 1840 to 1873. The coins were struck from a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper, with a weight of 26.73 grams and diameter of 38.1 mm. All have a reeded edge.
  As usual, Philadelphia coins do not carry a mintmark, while coins struck at other facilities have the mint mark (O, S, or CC) on the reverse of the coin below the eagle. Mint marks appear in in various sizes, but the difference is seldom noted. The location is usually a good identification of particular varieties, although the silver dollars are seldom collected by die variety.
  Production quality varies greatly with every issue. Generally, the New Orleans and Carson City issues are less well struck than those of the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint, although exceptions exist. The obverse stars, eagle’s wings and centers of both sides are particular prone to weakness. Another good indication for the strike is the foot of Liberty, which is seldom complete on coins of this type.

1840-1873 Seated Liberty Silver Dollars Mintage
  The Seated Liberty Dollar was produced from 1840 to 1873. During this time frame, mintages ranged from extremely low levels just above one thousand to relatively high levels of more than one million. While most issues were produced at the Philadelphia Mint, production also took place at New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City during certain years.
  There are several curiosities within the mintage figures. According to mint records there were no examples of the 1870-S Dollar reported to have been produced, although nine examples are currently known to exist. It has been presumed that twelve pieces may have been originally struck. In 1858, no coins were produced for circulation, although 300 proof coins were struck. The 1873-S had a mintage of 700 according to the Mint, although no examples have ever surfaced.

1870        415,000
1870-CC         11,758
1870-S        9 known

American Numismatic Association, Selections from The Numismatist: United States Paper Money, Tokens, Medals and Miscellaneous, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, WI, 1960.
Bowers, Q. David, Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States, A Complete Encyclopedia, Bowers and Merena, Wolfeboro, NH, 1993.
Judd, J. Hewitt M.D., United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces, 7th Edition, A. Kosoff, Western Publishing Co., Racine, WI, 1982.
White, Weimar W. The Liberty Seated Dollar 1840-1873, Sanford J. Durst, Long Island City, 1985.
Yeoman, R.S., A Guide Book of United States Coins, 47th Edition, Western Publishing Co., Racine, WI, 1993.