In 1860, the California mountain man John “Grizzly” Adams passed away from what was likely meningitis. Adams rose to fame for his ability to train grizzly bears, a task he performed for P.T. Barnum and his famed circus towards the end of his life. In 1855, Adams was attacked by a mother grizzly bear and was left with a large hole in his skull that is believed led to an acute inflammation that would eventually kill him. This 1860 half dollar may have been part of Adams’ $500 salary for a ten week tour with Barnum’s circus in the trapper’s final year.
Although many numismatists find the design attractive, the Mint terminated the Arrows and Rays Seated Half Dollar after only a single year of production. The rays in the reverse field were the problem: they created a cluttered design that promoted early die breakage during the delivery of business strikes. The arrows at the date remained for two more years, however, although by 1856 Mint officials no longer felt that it was necessary to include a special feature to distinguish those Half Dollars struck after the February 21, 1853 weight reduction from those delivered before.
The Philadelphia Mint struck proof Arrows, No Motto Seated Half Dollars in both 1854 and 1855. Original mintages are unknown, but the number of survivors suggests that they were very limited. Examples are of the utmost rarity, and they enjoy strong demand among both proof type collectors and specialists in Seated coinage.