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Liberty Seated Dollar
Type 4, With Motto
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Liberty Seated Dollars 1840-1873
Year, MintMark, & Major Variety
1873-S $1 Seated (Regular Strike)
90% Silver, 10% Copper
Rarity and Survival Estimates (
1 / 15
1 / 45
60 or Better
1 / 15
1 / 45
65 or Better
1 / 15
1 / 45
Q. David Bowers
: The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993).
A mystery: Although 700 coins were reported as minted, no example has ever been located. Six pairs of dies were shipped from Philadelphia in November 1872, indicating a possibility for a large mintage which never materialized. Probably the entire mintage of 700 coins was from a single pair.
In an article, "What Would An 1873-S Standard Dollar Look Like?" published in The Gobrecht Journal, July 1980, Dr. John W. McCloskey quoted Harry X Boosel, who located a letter dated March 5, 1873 showing that a package of assay coins, including one standard silver dollar, was shipped from the San Francisco Mint by Wells Fargo to the superintendent of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. It was not unusual at the time for numismatically inclined members of the Assay Commission to acquire a few souvenirs by exchanging current coins for them, but if this was done with the 1873-S dollar it has since disappeared from view.
None exist: No 1873-S Liberty Seated dollars are known to exist. On several occasions I have heard reports of the 1873-S dollars, but each time they have been 1873-S trade dollars, including one highly publicized "discovery" in New Jersey in the early 1960s. Another "1873-S" was a forgery made by combining the obverse of an 1873 Liberty Seated dollar with a reverse made from a planed-down 1872-S; the entire concoction was housed in a plastic holder and was exhibited without comment at several coin shows during the 1960s.
In a contribution to The Numismatist, published August 1906, numismatic promoter and entrepreneur Farran Zerbe mentioned that he was in San Francisco and: "I appreciated the courtesy of the officers of the branch mint and made them many visits during which facts relating to the limited's' coinage 1873 standard dollar. .. were obtained." However, unfortunately for the numismatic community, Zerbe never shared the information with readers of The Numismatist.
A Letter From Tom DeLorey
Tom DeLorey comments: The following commentary is from numismatic scholar Tom DeLorey and was sent to me under date of November 23, 1991:
I am looking forward to the completion of the silver dollar book, which reminds me of a conversation I once had with Harry X Boosel regarding the mysterious 1873-S Seated dollars. I had suggested to him that the 700 pieces reported for San Francisco for 1873 might have been leftover standard dollars dated 1872, which had been carried over because they were not enough to fill out a complete bag but which were reported in 1873 to clear out the books now that the series had been discontinued. (Anent this, R.W.Julian commented (letter to the author, May 26,1992): "I disagree and believe that the 700 pieces were dated 1873.")
If you will look at the San Francisco mintage figures for this era, you will see that the totals almost always end in round figures that add up to complete $1,000 bags of coins, etc., 1,000 dollars, 2,000 halves, 4,000 quarters, etc. From a mass production viewpoint this is unlikely to the point of impossibility, unless they filled up even bags and melted the remainders. It is much more likely that they simply carried the odd lots over into the next year, and included them in the first bags of the next year. This theory is supported by the finding of 20 BD 1893-S dollars, supposedly the entire known supply of BD's, in a bag of 1894-S dollars back in the 1950s.
Harry responded by showing me a copy of the letter from the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint accompanying a transmission of coins for assay on March 5, 1873,• that included one standard dollar. He believes that this is proof that the 1873-S dollars were actually struck. However, I think that this assay coin could well have been an 1872-S, sent to account for the other pieces belatedly reported as being struck.
(Signed) Tom DeLorey
1. Die characteristics unknown. Breen-5496. If a specimen ever turns up, it should have the closed 3 logotype as in 1873 and 1873-CC, and either the 1872-S reverse or a similar die with the same S punch as used on the 1872-S dollar or 1873-S trade dollar.
1873-S: Summary of Characteristics
Enabling legislation: Act of January 18, 1837 (weight and fineness); Act of March 3, 1865 (motto)
Designer of obverse: Robert Ball Hughes (after Gobrecht)
Designer of reverse: J.B. Longacre (after Hughes and Reich)
Weight and composition: 412.5 grains; .900 silver, .100 copper
Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $1.004 Dies prepared: Obverse: 6; Reverse: 6
Circulation strike mintage: 700 Estimated quantity melted: 700
Approximate populations: Unknown in any grade. (URS-0)
What happened to the 700 1873-S Liberty Seated dollars reported struck is one of America's foremost unsolved numismatic mysteries.
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