1878-S Seated Liberty Half Dollar

The 1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar is a prized coin with a mintage of only 12,000. Researchers estimate there are about 50 extant specimens today.(1)

The circumstances leading to the extremely low mintage of the 1878-S half dollar were tied to the plummeting price of silver in the 1870’s. Nevada’s fabulous Comstock Lode unearthed vast amounts of silver ore, causing the price for the precious metal to fall disastrously for silver mining interests.(2)

To prop up the silver commodity, the passage of the Bland-Allison Act on February 28, 1878 mandated the U.S. Treasury to monthly purchase between $2 to $4 million worth of western state silver for dollar coin production.

The impact of the Bland-Allison Act on half dollar mintage was sudden and startling, as the means of production at the branch mints mostly switched over to Morgan dollar manufacturing. In 1878, the Carson City Mint issued 62,000 half dollars, but at San Francisco only 12,000 were struck.

Fascinating Fact: Many fraudsters have created fake 1878-S half dollars by adding an “S” mintmark to the much more common 1878 Philadelphia half dollar. An easy way to detect this sort of fake is to count the reeds on the edge. A genuine 1878-S half dollar has 147 reeds, not the same number as the edge reeding imparted at other mints that year.

The 1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar first attained legendary status in the numismatic world well over 100 years ago. As the value trend charts demonstrate, not much has changed since then.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 50
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 8.5
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar photos Historical value trends of the rare 1878-S Seated Liberty half dollar
Trendline Avg = 13.83 GOOD
Last updated 5-11-24
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1. PCGS.  1878-S 50C (Regular Strike).

2. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  Incredible Gem Mint State 1878-S Half Dollar.  Mar 2020 Auction.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.