1846 Seated Half Dollar

[The following article is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its authors, Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert. This information was originally published in 1993 in The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars.]

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MINTAGE: 2,210,000

PROOFS: Medium date: less than 10 known. Large date: Number unknown.


  • Authors’ Research Effort: substantial
  • Number of Die Marriages Documented: 16
  • Number of Head Dies Identified: 14
  • Number of Tail Dies Identified: 14
  • Number of Collar Reed Counts Identified: 3 (143, 144, 145)
  • Standard Diameter or Diameter Range: 1.197 to 1.204 inches
  • Number of Major Varieties: 8
    Most of the marriages with a medium date fall within this variety. (Breen-4786)
  • WB-102. MEDIUM DATE, ERRANT 6 (SO-CALLED 1846/5?). (1 HEAD DIE)
    In the past few years, the authors have found cause to question the “overdate” status of this recognized variety. A much stronger case could be made for this variety being an overdate than its New Orleans counterpart. After all, there is enough garbage inside and around the final digit 6 to satisfy everyone’s imagination. In fact, a good deal of what you see is actually “garbage”. The so-called “knob of 5 within the lower loop of 6″ is actually an unfinished area within the punch (tool) used to impress the digit 6. The inside area of this punch was not completely scooped out when the punch was made such that a very heavy impression of that punch into a working die would exceed the relief tolerances of the punch and the reverse image of the “garbage” within the unfinished area would transfer to the working die which would, in turn, transfer the garbage to the coins produced. There is also some less significant garbage within the upper loop of the 6. The proof of our garbage theory is validated by studying blow up photographs of the 6 recut over horizontal 6. The final 6 of this variety is the most heavily impressed for that year. Nearly identical garbage to the so-called 6 over 5 varieties can be found plus much more. This variety (WB-102) is actually a misplaced 6 with the first 6 being punched to the northwest of the prominent 6 by about 4 of a digit. The lower ioop of the first 6 is clearly visible on early die states as it connects the center of the left side of the prominent 6 to the center of the serif of the prominent 4. The right side of the lower loop of the first 6 is also visible along the right side of (within) the upper curve of the prominent 6. It should be noted that this remnant is curved like the side of a 6 rather than straight and angular like the upright of the 5. High grade coins also show signs of a third 6 as slight doubling can be seen along the left side of the prominent 6 which is no doubt caused by punch bounce when the final digit was hammered in. This head die is paired with two tail dies, the second of which is easily identified by a large hole near the top of the first set of vertical stripes in the shield. Heavy horizontal die lines appear in Liberty’s skirt off the right end of the scroll. This variety was in high demand as an overdate. We do not consider it to be an overdate but expect it will still be a popular variety. The bolder first marriage should command a higher premium. (See [161 pages 328-33 1.) (Breen-4787)
  • WB-103. MEDIUM DATE, RECUT 8 (SO-CALLED 1846/5?). (1 HEAD DIE)
    This head die is found much less often than WB-102, but when it does, it is also called “6 over 5″ because of a so-called “knob of 5 within the lower loop of 6″. It actually has the same “garbage” as described under WB-102 except that there is more garbage because the final digit was more heavily impressed than WB102. It actually presents a good “garbage link” between WB-102 and WB-104 (6 Recut over Horizontal 6). There is no apparent reason for the 6 to be heavily impressed on this die as there are no signs of repunching except that the 8 is slightly recut north with slight doubling evident below the prominent 8. Accordingly, this variety should be called “Recut 8″ or “Garbage 6″. Since the current emission sequence we devised for 1846-P has WB-102, 103, and 104 as being the first three of a total of nine medium date head dies used for 1846, it is possible that some Philadelphia Mint employee noticed the poor relief on the 6 punch after the famous Horizontal 6 blunder, and the relief on the punch was improved prior to dating the remaining head dies. Late die states of WB- 103 have a rim cud to the left of the rock which may account for the scarcity of this variety. The tail die is known to be paired to the 6 Recut over Horizontal 6 head die (WB-104) except the WB-103 marriage is an earlier die state. (Breen-Unlisted)
    This famous variety has the 6 repunched over an earlier punched horizontal 6 (originally punched counterclockwise 90 degrees). The die is unfinished beneath the digits 84 and could possibly be remnants of earlier punched digits of the date. Most coins seen have a double rim cud below 846. Late die states have a reverse cud above UN in UNITED. The tail die is the same die found on WB-103 except this is a later die state. This variety has sometimes been called the 6 over “lazy 6″. (Breen-4788)
    The doubling is very evident on stars 1-4, the lower left outline of the rock, and shield lines. The upper loop of the 8 is slightly doubled but this must be a repunched digit. This head die is paired with a single tail die. (See [16] pages 332-334.) (Breen.Unlisted)
    Most of the large date marriages fall within this variety. (Breen-4789)
  • WB-107. LARGE DATE, TRIPLED 1 & 4. (1 HEAD DIE)
    The die pair for this variety was apparently used to strike the 1846 large date proofs [81. The lower crossbar of the 1,4 are triple cut in an easterly direction. Evidence of the earlier punched dates shows to the left of these digits. Although low graded coins have not been observed by the authors, this repunching will most likely not appear on coins grading less than fine. The tail die has very heavy horizontal die lines under the lower three olive leaves. (Breen-Unlisted)
    Nicknamed the “spiked 4″, the 4 on this variety has a heavy wedge shaped tine pointing down to the right through the crossbar’s serif. There are two tail dies paired with this head; the first has two die lines above ICA to the rim, the second shows effects of die crumbling around UNITED and the arrow heads. The spike fades on late die states of the second marriage. (See [14] page 269.) (Breen-4790)


  • This date is usually found strongly struck.


  • (See [14] pages 295-301.) Much confusion exists over identifying the difference between the medium and large date varieties for this year. It is relatively easy to correctly differentiate them. Besides the dramatic difference between the size of the dates (when compared side by side or when measured), a quick check can be performed by studying the 4. The medium 4 is connected between the lower serif on the crossbar and the base. Whereas, the large 4 has a noticeable separation. See the section in Chapter 2 on date sizes for additional information.

About Randy Wiley & Bill Bugert

The authors of "The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars", published by DLRC Press in 1993. This groundbreaking book was the first (and still the only) to offer an in-depth analysis and die variety study on the series. The books have been long out-of-print and are published now online for open access to all collectors.
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