1855 LIBERTY SEATED H10C, ARROWS MS66+
GEM WHITE LUSTROUS SURFACES. TIED WITH TWO OTHER COINS FOR HIGHEST GRADED AT PCGS.
Silver was an extremely elusive metal to come across by the mid-1800s, which made it difficult to keep coins made from silver in circulation. Thanks to the Gold Rush of 1848 and 1849 the price of silver skyrocketed to new highs while gold’s abundance made its price fall. This decline made a coins intrinsic value worth more than its face value which led to consumers hoarding and melting coins down for profit. By 1851 all silver coins had been virtually wiped from circulation and caused major headaches for merchants and bankers who now had to give change with small fractional coins like the three-cent coin and foreign currency. After listening to complaints, congress set out to appease the public by proposing a bill to lessen the weight of silver in the half-dimes, dimes, and quarters. At this point, this was an absurdity because congressmen felt uncomfortable with fiduciary money- or coins that were less intrinsically than they were in face value. This, however, was the best solution to return decimal denomination coins to circulation and deter hoarders. Despite being the most reasonable approach, the bill faced many major opponents including the future president Andrew Johnson who was often said to be ill-informed. Due to the opposition, unfortunately, the bill was postponed an additional two years and was finally passed after the two years and three full days of debate. Once approved, production needed to happen immediately due to the significant coin shortage but it was also important to the Treasury to denote the 6.9% weight decrease with a re-design. Head engraver John B. Longacre, decided there was no time to hire and train a new engraver but rather simply add rays to the larger denominations and two arrows on either side of the date for the half-dime. This plan was quick, easy, and got the point across; Longacre now had the task of quick getting seventy-eight dies into the Philadelphia Mint, eighteen dies into the New Orleans Mint, and two circumstantial dies into the San Francisco Mint. This particular “arrow” series ended up only being minted in the Philadelphia and New Orleans mints with Philadelphia maintaining one of the highest mint numbers of thirteen million at the time. This addition to the seated liberty is often debated to either be a fourth half-dime type or just a modification to the type-three design. Regardless, these arrows did not stick around for long as silver prices evened out, but the weight remained the same.