Description and Analysis

Seated Liberty Half Dollars
1855 S ARROWS 50C PF

Description & Analysis

The San Francisco Mint coined its first silver pieces in 1855, and proofs of both the quarter dollar and half dollar were produced to mark the occasion. These are exceedingly rare, with only three examples reported. One has been part of the U. S. Mint cabinet, now held by the Smithsonian Institution, since it was sent to U. S. Mint Director James R. Snowden by San Francisco Mint Superintendent Robert A. Birdsall in that same year. Another example surfaced in 1955 and has been offered at auction several times since. A third piece was cataloged as proof in a 1953 auction but has not been traced since then.

The two confirmed specimens are from the same die marriage, Wiley-Bugert 1. Like many of the currency pieces, these coins lack drapery at Liberty's elbow from overpolishing of the dies. Unlike the circulating coins, however, the proofs are never seen with die-clash impressions, though the do reveal weakness at the bottoms of the date numerals. As with the drapery, this is likely a consequence of polishing the dies a bit too aggressively.