Numismatics Underrated Classic Proof Seated Liberty Coinage 1858-1891

Posted on 11/19/2015

Proof Seated coins from 1858 to 1891 can be found in Choice condition for relatively modest sums.

One of the most common questions we are asked as professional numismatists is which area of the rare coin market has the most potential. We literally handle thousands of coins each month and picking our favorites can sometimes be difficult. We all like the mega-expensive coins, but few can afford to place these coins in their holdings. It can also be frustrating to pursue coins that rarely appear on the market. We have lost many a client over the years that began a difficult collecting strategy, only to give up after months of fruitless searching. The thrill of collecting is certainly in the chase. But the satisfaction of acquiring an interesting object is the ultimate goal for most collectors. One series you should carefully consider is Liberty Seated Proof coinage struck from 1858-1891.

Most people are familiar with the Proof Sets produced by the US Mint each year. They are our circulating coinage struck for collectors using carefully polished dies and planchets. What many do not know is that the Mint has been striking these specially prepared coins since at least 1821. In the early years just a few examples were struck for presentation purposes or for placement in the Mint cabinet. Many of these incredible coins still reside in the trays of the Smithsonian collection. In 1858 the Mint began striking a very limited number of complete Proof sets for the fledgling numismatic community of the mid-19th century. This practice has continued to this day. Most of the Proof sets from this era have been broken up over the years. Occasionally, an original set that has stayed together for over a century will enter the marketplace. As you would expect, they bring a hefty price.

1874 Arrows 50 Cent Proof
Click images to enlarge.

Individually however, Proof Seated coins from 1858 to 1891 can be found in Choice condition for relatively modest sums. Many coins can be purchased for under $2,000 and that have a mintage of less than 1,000 coins. Seated coins of the era were struck in the following denominations: Half Dime, Dime, Twenty Cents, Quarter, Half Dollar, and Dollar. The total number of coins struck for all denominations is less than 125,000 coins. By comparison, nearly 500,000 1909-S VDB Cents were struck in one year. Of the 153 different issues in the series, 117 tout mintages below 1,000 coins. Regular issue United States coinage with a mintage below 1,000 coins, typically sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Proof Seated coinage also fits the budget of most collectors, as nearly every issue can be found in grades from Proof 60 to Proof 69. Another important factor to note is that there are no mega-coins in the series – other than the 1884 and 1885 Trade Dollars, and maybe the 1895 Morgan Dollar, depending on budget – that would keep a collector from completing the entire set of Proof seated coinage from 1858-1891. We have worked with several collectors on this satisfying task. Interestingly, if you add in the minor coinage, such as cents, two cents, three cents, and nickel coinage—you have recreated the entire Proof sets issued from 1858-1891. These Proof sets are popular and always in demand.

Another option is one of each Type which include the following—Half Dimes (2) Stars, Legend Dimes (3) Stars, Arrows, Legend Twenty Cents (1) Quarter (3) No Motto, Motto, Arrows Half Dollars No Motto, Motto, Arrows (3) Dollars (3) No Motto, Motto, and Trade. Many choose this shorter option and focus on quality. In the last decade or so, there has also been an increased demand for Cameo and Ultra Cameo Seated Liberty coinage. These can be difficult to price and a careful study of auction records is recommended.

Now is an excellent time to consider this enduring and interesting series. Many great collections of Seated Liberty coins have been sold in the last couple of years. Prices for many issues have been strained by the supply, and bargains can be found in nearly every denomination. This is especially true for coins at the top end of the grade range. Proof Seated coinage in grades below PF 65 has been trading for about the same prices for nearly twenty years. As can be seen from the extremely low mintages for many of these coins, the demand would not have to increase much to see healthy price increases.

As we have talked about many times in the last several months the market is heavily focused on quality. This means coins with great eye-appeal and originality. All of these principles apply to Seated Liberty Proof coinage. Avoid coins with overly dark toning or coins that have been harshly cleaned. Your attention to quality will be well rewarded when it comes time to sell. Whether you are buying just a few coins or going for the entire date run, this series will provide the excitement of the chase and financial success.

Seated Proof Mintages

Date H10C 10C 20C 25C 50C $1 Trade $1
1858 300 300 300 300 300
1859 800 800 800 800 800
1860 1000 1000 1000 1000 1330
1861 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000
1862 550 550 550 550 550
1863 460 460 460 460 460
1864 470 470 470 470 470
1865 500 500 500 500 500
1866 725 725 725 725 725
1867 625 625 625 625 625
1868 600 600 600 600 600
1869 600 600 600 600 600
1870 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000
1871 960 960 960 960 960
1872 950 950 950 950 950
1873 No Arrows 600 1100 600 600 600 865
1873 Arrows 800 540 550
1874 700 700 700 700
1875 700 2790 700 700 700
1876 1150 1260 1150 1150 1150
1877 510 350 510 510 510
1878 800 600 800 800 900
1879 1100 1100 1100 1541
1880 1355 1355 1355 1987
1881 975 975 975 960
1882 1100 1100 1100 1097
1883 1039 1039 1039 979
1884 875 875 875 10
1885 930 930 930 5
1886 886 886 886
1887 710 710 710
1888 832 832 832
1889 711 711 711
1890 590 590 590
1891 600 600 600

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