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: $6.37 (10/23/2019)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1878 S 50C MS obverse 1878 S 50C MS reverse
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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.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 6/27/2019

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

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



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: 10/22/2019 1878 S 50C MS
 8 %8 %23 %-8 %8 %-------8 %8 %15 %15 %----- 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
7/31/1993 PCGS MS 63   Heritage Auctions 1993 ANA Sale #107, 107/Lot# 6353 $46,200.00
9/25/2013 PCGS F 15   Heritage Auctions 2013 September 25 - 29 US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(6), 1189/Lot# 6444 $47,000.00
1/8/2014 PCGS MS 61   Heritage Auctions 2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando Session(3), 1201/Lot# 5260 $94,000.00
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
6/27/2014 PCGS FA 2   Stack's Bowers June 2014 Baltimore, 6021/Lot# 1453 $17,037.50
9/5/2019 NGC Details VF Details  Heritage Auctions 2019 September 5 - 8 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(4), 1299/Lot# 4763 $24,000.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1878 50C MS S
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