Description and Analysis

Seated Liberty Half Dollars
1879 50C PF

Description & Analysis

The near suspension of circulating coinage for the fractional silver pieces which went into effect this year put speculative pressure on the proofs, and this accounts for the much higher than usual sales. As a result, the 1879 proof half dollar is more commonly seen than those of earlier years, and gems are sufficiently available to meet the demand from date collectors. Cameo proofs are likewise more available than usual, but their totals still remain modest across all grades.

Interestingly, Walter Breen provided a total of 620 proofs in both his proof book (1977) and his general encyclopedia (1988). He indicated that the proof half dollars of 1879 were delivered in three batches of 250, 120 and 250. He added that 480 proof half dollars of previous years were on hand at the Philadelphia Mint as of January, 1879 and that these were sold during 1879. Adding these coins to the 620 figure for 1879-dated halves nearly matches the 1150 total currently found in reference books, so it's now uncertain exactly how many proof half dollars dated 1879 were actually coined and sold.

Unlike 1878, where proof half dollars bearing the old reverse hub are merely rumored, it's a proven fact that both old and new reverses are seen for 1879. Two die marriages bearing the Type 1 reverse are known, along with a single marriage having the Type 2 reverse. Collectors have shown no interest in obtaining examples of both, as proof coins are rarely collected by varieties.