Coin Specifications

Category: Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 12,000
Obverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $6.19 (8/23/2019)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1878 S 50C MS obverse 1878 S 50C MS reverse
Images Courtesy of Heritage Auctions (HA.com)
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Description & Analysis

The extremely low mintage of this final San Francisco Mint Seated Liberty Half Dollar resulted in a genuinely rare coin across all grades. Indeed, it is the key to completing a basic date/mint set of this coin type, and a mere 60 survivors are estimated to exist. A disproportionately high number (16 or so, according to series expert Bill Bugert) have survived unworn, though only a very few of these are gems (MS-65 or higher). The typical MS 1878-S half dollar was fully struck from fresh dies that imparted some degree of prooflike brilliance.

The low mintage of this issue resulted from the great redundancy of fractional silver coins in circulation and in government vaults by early 1878. No more pieces were needed, and further production through 1891 was limited to the Philadelphia Mint. This came as a conveniently timed relief, since passage of the Bland-Allison Act early in 1878 mandated the production of many millions of unwanted silver dollars annually. Many numismatic writers have concluded that the latter development is what led to the near suspension of half dollar coinage after 1878, but it was simply a coincidence.

Only a single pair of dies is known for 1878-S, and all examples have 147 reeds, a gauge not used for 1878(P) or CC halves. This has made it possible to easily spot a common Philly half dollar to which an S mintmark has been added. In addition, there are several distinctive die markers for this rare coin, and these are well illustrated in Bill Bugert's excellent reference, A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume I, San Francisco Branch Mint.

GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 6/27/2019

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

1878 S 50C MS
  GVGFVFXF505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ 50000 52000 65000 76500 85000 95000 100000 105000 110000 - 132500 132500 177500 225000 300000 - - - - -

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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 13
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 53
High Grade: 65

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.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 8/20/2019 1878 S 50C MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970Total
Base113-11-------1122-----13
-----------------------
-----------------------
-----------------------
Total113-11-------1122-----13
 8 %8 %23 %-8 %8 %-------8 %8 %15 %15 %----- 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
3/20/2014 PCGS MS 63   Heritage Auctions 2014 March 20 The Collection of Donald E. Bently - Bently Foundation US Coins Signature Auction - San Francisco Session(1), 1205/Lot# 30054 $129,250.00
6/23/2014 PCGS MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2014 June 23 The Eugene H. Gardner Collection of US Coins Signature Auction - New York Session(1), 1213/Lot# 30521 $199,750.00
6/27/2014 PCGS FA 2   Stack's Bowers June 2014 Baltimore, 6021/Lot# 1453 $17,037.50
7/11/2014 PCGS FA 2   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3490, 6041/Lot# 20301 $18,212.50
3/3/2016 PCGS AG 3   Heritage Auctions 2016 March 3 - 6 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(3), 1233/Lot# 4906 $19,975.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1878 50C MS S
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base381785158968998110430116437287118631207512178123781275712937134461461915603171181707020621253493172937859
538386669306101311083411643881211934121091224512504128171310713837149471610817118182542219727476337720
00000088121193412109122451250412817131071383714947161081711818254221972747600
000000103381200412144123111263112877132761422815275166131711819437237732960200
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