Coin Specifications

Category: Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 3,532,708
Obverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.4400g
ASW: 0.3599oz
Melt Value: $6.35 (10/20/2019)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1853 ARROWS & RAYS 50C MS obverse 1853 ARROWS & RAYS 50C MS reverse
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Description & Analysis

The huge discoveries of gold in California in 1848 and then Australia shortly afterward drove down the price of this metal in relation to silver, for which there had as yet been any significant finds in the United States. The result was that a silver dollar soon became worth several cents more than a gold dollar, and this same condition applied proportionately to the fractional silver coins. No longer able to circulate at par, the silver pieces were either hoarded or sent overseas to be melted for their bullion value. Some found their ways to Canada and Latin America, where the scarcity of circulating coin trumped the modest discrepancy in market values.

Congress debated this crisis for several years, finally deciding to maintain the .900 fineness of the silver coins while reducing their weight about seven per cent. This was enough to make them worth slightly less than an equivalent face value in gold coins. To maintain the illusion of a dual standard, the silver dollar alone was left at its old weight, dooming it to become invisible in domestic commerce for years afterward.

To distinguish the new issue of fractional silver coins the Mint added opposed arrowheads at either side of the date. The quarter dollar and half dollar were further marked with a glory of rays around the eagle. Since these two features are found placed exactly on each and every coin, it is evident that the Mint created a new master die for both sides. This spared the Engraving Department having to hand punch the additional features into each working die.

The urgency of replacing the earlier series of half dollars in circulation prompted huge mintages of the "Arrows" coinage, and this issue is very common across all grades. Mint State pieces are reasonably available, yet gems are not often seen. The only varieties known are minor doubled-die reverses, but clashed dies are quite common. The 1853 Arrows half dollar is found with either 144 or 145 reeds.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 10/10/2019

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

Base $ 50.00 55.00 85.00 135 325 635 735 845 1100 1500 1750 2300 3700 4900 23500 52500 95000 - - -
$ - - - 950 1250 - 1800 2650 3850 5950 29500 72000 - -

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Total Graded: 1257
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 53
High Grade: 66

The chart showing PrAg series, G series, VG series, F series, VF series, 40 series, 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 10/8/2019 1853 ARROWS & RAYS 50C MS
 0 %1 %2 %2 %11 %8 %14 %6 %7 %12 %14 %0 %3 %5 %5 %6 %1 %1 %---- 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
2/10/2008 NGC AU 55   Goldberg February 10-13, 2008 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 44/Lot# 2181 $529.00
9/1/2010 NGC Details VF Details  Teletrade Auction 2917, 2917/Lot# 1486 $58.00
8/15/2011 NGC MS 65   Stack's Bowers The August 2011 Chicago ANA World's Fair of Money Auction, 115/Lot# 7362 $13,225.00
6/2/2013 NGC Details AU Details  Heritage Auctions 2013 June 2 - 11 US Coins Internet Auction - Dallas Session(2), 131324/Lot# 20841 $258.50
11/30/2014 NGC VF 35   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 832, 841/Lot# 617 $170.00
1/4/2017 PCGS MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2017 January 4 - 9 FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Session(2), 1251/Lot# 4359 $3,525.00
6/4/2017 NGC Details XF Details  Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(2), 131724/Lot# 23553 $129.25
3/6/2018 PCGS VF 30   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131811/Lot# 23972 $114.00
10/2/2019 NGC XF 45   Heritage Auctions Tuesday & Wednesday US Coins Weekly Online Auction Session(1), 131941/Lot# 23234 $264.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1853 ARROWS 50C MS & RAYS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 61
Points: 2268
Owner: JTO
Grade: AU 58
Points: 1941
Owner: dockj
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