Description and Analysis

Seated Liberty Half Dollars
1873 ARROWS 50C MS

Description & Analysis

Effective April 1, 1873, the weight of the half dollar was raised quite slightly so that it could be expressed neatly in grams. This was a gesture toward the then-popular notion of establishing an internationally exchangeable coinage. While this never came to pass, at least not for the United States, it did require some mark of distinction on this denomination, as well as the quarter dollar and dime, all of which were modified in proportion. As it had in 1853-55, the U. S. Mint added opposed arrowheads at either side of the date to mark them as being of the new standard. Technically, the earlier coins still fell within the legal weight tolerance of the new ones, but the various mints were ordered to destroy any existing stocks coined to the old standard.

Wiley and Bugert identified 10 obverse dies for 1873(P) Arrows half dollars and 14 reverses, though it's not certain from their 1993 book whether all of these reverse dies were used for Arrows halves. This information awaits publication of Volume VII of Bill Bugert's immense die registry for Seated Liberty Half Dollars.

Two different sizes of arrowheads appear on 1873(P) half dollars. The larger one is the more common, being seen on five dies. The smaller arrowheads are known on a like number of dies, yet fewer coins were made from these. Unlike 1874, when the Small Arrows variety is scarce, the relative availability for 1873 halves is not great enough to command a premium for either variety. One of the Small Arrows obverses features a repunched numeral 3, but the standout variety for this date is the Small Arrows half dollar with quadrupled stripes in Liberty's shield.