It’s pretty hard to believe that there could be overlooked silver dollars of the United States. Morgan dollars get so much publicity that it seems every numismatic publication contains something about silver dollars, but very few have anything about Seated Liberty dollars. This is unfortunate since Seated Liberty dollars are, in many cases, great values for coins that are a lot tougher and more interesting than most realize.
It must be remembered that the Seated Liberty dollar was somewhat of a foreign object to many Americans. There had been no real silver dollar production since 1804 and, by the time the first Seated Liberty silver dollar was produced in 1840, an entire generation of Americans had managed to live their entire lives without seeing or using silver dollars. That seems hard to believe for a period in the first half of the 19th century, but it’s true.
The first Seated Liberty silver dollars had what proved to be fairly strong mintages. The 1840 was over 61,000, and the 1841, 1842 and 1843 were all over 100,000, but apparently about that time someone realized that the Seated Liberty dollars being made were not circulating very actively.
In fact, there is some reason to believe that the silver dollars being made were barely circulating at all. After all, decades of having no silver dollars will result in people not thinking much about using them. That appears to be what happened as there is some suggestion that they were basically being used as novelty gifts and reserves.
By 1844, mintages dropped significantly and by 1848 they hit a new low. The silver dollar that year reached just 15,000 pieces. A few years later there would be even lower totals, but that was a different time. At that time, silver coins were being hoarded. In 1848, however, the mintage was low simply because the coins were not needed.
It would be equally fair to suggest that the 1848 and other Seated Liberty dollars were not heavily saved by collectors. After all, a dollar was still far too much money for most people to be spending on coins. Moreover, with the rather spotty track record of silver dollars, there is reason to suspect that most would not have been overly confident that the coins they were collecting would even be issued with regularity.
An additional factor is that 1848 was a special time in terms of change. It was about that time that out in California, gold would be discovered, which would change things dramatically: the silver dollar in circulation would see its place being taken by the gold dollar.
The gold discovery would force a silver reduction in all silver issues except the silver dollar and the role of the silver dollar was basically to be exported. That would have applied to the 1848 as well if it was still to be found. Although, like many other silver issues from the period before silver was reduced in the coins in 1853, the 1848 dollar could also have been melted in some numbers. We cannot be sure, but certainly the 1848 should be as tough as its 15,000 mintage suggests.
That said, in G-4 the 1848 lists for $350, and that has to be seen as a great value since it’s only available because the issue is overlooked. In MS-60, it’s $6,600, and an MS-63 is at $12,000.
At the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC), they have seen the 1848 in Mint State a total of 11 times, but none were better than MS-63. At the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), they have seen the 1848 21 times in Mint State. A single MS-66 was the best while no other was better than MS-63. In fairness, there are a few proofs with NGC reporting 10 and PCGS 15. They could be an option, though still not an easy or inexpensive one.
Realistically in G-4, the 1848 is a great value and the same applies to MS-60. At $6,600, when you consider that combined NGC and PCGS have only graded 32, you have to think you are getting a very solid value because the 1848 is a very tough coin lacking only one thing: recognition.