Description and Analysis

Seated Liberty Half Dollars
1855 S ARROWS 50C MS

Description & Analysis

A shortage of parting acids at the San Francisco Mint limited its coinage of gold in 1854 and precluded silver coinage altogether. A supply was finally secured the following year, and silver quarter and half dollars were added to its roster of coins. Both had modest mintages and are scarce across all grades. Most 1855-S halves are very well worn. Examples grading XF or higher are rare and highly sought by collectors. Mint State pieces are major rarities, while gems are unknown.

Some four die marriages have been observed, these utilizing four obverses and two reverses. Since die pairs had been shipped for 1854, it's likely that the reverse dies were utilized this year. All examples have a reed count of 140, which is rather low for this coin type. Since collars typically were manufactured at each individual mint or purchased from local manufacturers, there was always a wide variety among 19th Century USA coins. Certainly, no one at the mints ever expected anyone to be studying their coins' third sides.

For reasons unknown, employees of the San Francisco Mint routinely overpolished the obverse dies for this issue. Most coins are lacking all or part of the drapery at Liberty's left elbow, and the support for her left foot is also diminished. On the reverse, the vertical stripes of the eagle's shield are often partially eradicated. The raised outline, or "halo," seen on most 1853-55 half dollars of the other mints are not found on 1855-S halves, and this is either the reason for overpolishing or simply an unintended consequence of it.