Seated Liberty Dollar (1836-1873)
Seated Liberty Dollar – No Motto 1840-1866
Seated Liberty Dollar – In 1840, Martin Van Buren was in the middle of serving a Presidential term through severe economic despair. Fittingly referred to as ‘the hard times,’ this era saw the growth of banks, unregulated at the time, issuing unsecured paper money. The era was strenuous and rough for many, seeing a vast majority unemployed and living in squalor.
Silver and gold, also known as ‘hard money,’ was the sole reliable value at the side of the worthless paper money. Van Buren favored this hard money and had faith in it. A new silver dollar was created after the Mint endeavored from 1836 -1840. There hadn’t been a dollar coin seen in circulation since 1804 when the Draped Bust dollars were released.
The new dollar was viewed as the pinnacle of America’s coinage by the Mint director, Robert Patterson. The silver dollar was seen as a store of wealth for the abundance of working-class Americans living in poverty, seeing 76-78 hours working week merely bringing in four dollars during the ‘hard times.’
The seated liberty dollar was designed to be emblematic of liberty and featured a seated female figure. Thomas Sully, the wonderful painter, was brought in to start sketching designs for the seated lady. Sully sketched her draped in Grecian robes while perched on a rock. With a union shield with the worlds ‘LIBERTY,’ resting on her left arm, and a tall pole with the Liberty Cap on top. Christian Gobrecht, an assistant to the Mint’s engraver, adapted the sketches provided by Sully to make them suitable for coinage. The stunning results saw the design of the Seated Liberty been used on dimes ranging from half dimes to dollars, from 1836- 1891.
Seated Liberty Dollar – With Motto (1866-1873)
Identical to earlier issues, apart from the added moto, the Seated Liberty Doller was slightly redesigned in the midst of a civil war. Still standing strong to the original design, by Gobrecht, the Seated Liberty had a motto added to it in recognition of the deity to uplift the nation.
GOD OUR TRUST was the first Motto recommended by the Mint Director, as he thought it would fit comfortably on the coin. Coins dated 1861 and 1862 will have these words engraved, whereas following coins were designed with GOD AND OUR COUNTRY, GOD OUR TRUST, and IN GOD WE TRUST. Finally, in 1864, it was approved by Secretary Chase to engrave IN GOD WE TRUST.
This Motto became an important part of the American spirit, causing an uproar in 1907 when the coinage was issued without the motto. Congress decided that the motto should be immediately restored in 1908, after seeing controversial waves rippling through the public community. The Seated Liberty is symbolic and powerful, symbolizing unity. It was common for people to rely on the deity for guidance in the mid-19th century, acting as a prayer for the nation.
The Seated Liberty dollar is a treasure, seeing collectors in possession of the with-motto and no-motto types. Although obtainable, the Gobrecht pattern may be more expensive, along with the 1836-1839 circulation issue.