The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
The two-year 1854 Arrows Seated half dollar issues followed the one-year Arrows and Rays Seated type, both styles indicating a reduction in the weight of the half dollar from 13.36 gm (used since the introduction of the Seated half dollar design in 1839) to 12.44 gm. Only the weight of the coin changed, the fineness, diameter, and design remained the same.
Though the amount of weight change might seem insignificant, the reduction was necessary for an important reason--to keep half dollars in circulation. The production of gold from California and other places in the late 1840s and throughout the 1850s flooded U.S. and world markets, enough to distort the ratio between gold and silver prices. Silver prices increased, which meant the bullion value of U.S. silver coins exceeded their face value. Brokers, speculators, and regular citizens hoarded the coins, many of which were eventually exported and melted. Silver coins virtually disappeared from circulation.
The Act of February 21, 1853, allowed Mint Director George N. Eckert to reduce the weight of the half dime, dime, quarter, and half dollar. On the 1853 half dollar, the change was indicated by the placement of arrowheads on both sides of the date, and by the addition of a sunburst of rays around the eagle on the reverse. The rays were problematic, compromising the ability of die makers to produce and maintain needed dies, and so were dropped from the 1854 issues. This example is well struck, though with minor softness in some of the details. Both sides are lustrous and covered by a warm russet patina with a trace of rose, and the obverse is peppered with dark toning highlights. 'Halos' are present around the obverse devices, a doubling phenomenon attributed to excessive striking force during production. The reverse shows die cracks, most obvious between the U of UNITED and the H of HALF.
The New Orleans Mint produced over 5 million Seated halves in 1854, and the type is relatively common in grades up to and including near-Gem.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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