Coin Specifications

Category: Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 228,000
Obverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $6.18 (10/18/2017)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1873 S ARROWS 50C MS obverse 1873 S ARROWS 50C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

On September 1, 1870, a large French army under the command of Marshal MacMahon tried desperately to relieve an allied force besieged in the fortress of Metz and thus save Paris from her enemies. During their northward march, the Prussian IV Corps, Royal Saxon XII Army Corps, and I Bavarian Corps harried the southern flank of MacMahon's army at Beaumont. Breech-loading field pieces deployed by Bavarian, Silesian, Hessian, and Saxon units then pinned the bulk of the French force against the Belgian frontier at Sedan and pounded them into submission. Among the 100,000 French prisoners taken by the Prussians was none other than the French Emperor Napoleon III. Two days later, another French Republic rose in Paris to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of the monarchy. Although it did not end the Franco-Prussian War immediately, the Battle of Sedan allowed the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to proclaim a crusade against the 'revolutionary contagion' that the new French Republic represented for all of Europe. This self-proclaimed crusade gained vital Russian and Austrian sympathy and paved the way for Bismarck's creation of the German Empire on January 1, 1871.

While the shots exchanged at the Battle of Sedan may not have been heard 'round the world, they certainly reverberated in the halls of the United States Mint. Following his unification of Germany, Bismarck reorganized the nation's currency and adopted a gold standard. On his orders, Germany dumped vast quantities of silver onto the international market. This had the deleterious effect of closing European markets to American silver. Mine owners and their political allies realized that one way to relieve America's growing backlog of silver was through increased domestic coinage. In addition to making Uncle Sam a constant buyer of his own silver, this proposal would also allow the federal government to replace the hated shinplasters of the Civil War with new dimes, quarters, and halves.

Despite noble intentions, the resulting Mint Act of February 12, 1873 failed to effect an immediate increase in half dollar production. In the intervening months between February, 1873 and the Mint Act of January 14, 1875, half dollar mintage figures remained at post-1861 levels. The 228,000 half dollars that the San Francisco Mint coined in 1873 with arrows at their dates fall into this ignominious category. Although often considered a 'type coin' by many who overlook any silver delivery that lacks a CC mintmark, the 1873-S is a scarce issue whose rarity in high grades equals that of the 1873-CC and 1874-CC.

Born in part out of the chaos of European warfare, many of the 1873-S Arrows halves perished in the equally dangerous world of the American frontier.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 8/3/2016

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

1873 S ARROWS 50C MS
Base $ 80.00 120 190 285 650 985 1275 1825 2550 2850 3450 5400 8250 20500 39000 - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Total Graded: 48
Low Grade: G
Average Grade: 53
High Grade: 65

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
2/20/2005 PCGS AU 55   Goldberg February 20-23, 2005 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 28/Lot# 1270 $2,012.50
12/12/2005 PCGS XF 45   Heritage Auctions 2005 December Dallas Signature Auction #398, 398/Lot# 832 $546.25
7/5/2009 PCGS VF 35   Teletrade Auction 2714, 2714/Lot# 1747 $368.00
4/24/2013 NGC Details XF Details  Heritage Auctions 2013 April 24 - 28 CSNS US Coin Signature Auction - Chicago Session(8), 1184/Lot# 8402 $294.93
12/5/2013 NGC Details AU Details  Heritage Auctions 2013 December 5 - 8 US Coins Signature Auction - Houston Session(5), 1192/Lot# 7980 $188.00
6/4/2014 NGC Details AU Details  Heritage Auctions 2014 June 4 - 8 US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(6), 1206/Lot# 8327 $440.63
11/2/2014 PCGS VF 30   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 828, 837/Lot# 10395 $240.00
5/31/2015 PCGS Genuine VF   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131523/Lot# 23519 $164.50
7/26/2015 NGC VF 30   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3534, 6113/Lot# 20288 $329.00

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