1866 Liberty Seated dollars mark an important transition for the series. 1866 was the year that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse of the coin. Virtually all 1866 dollar carry the iconic motto, which first appeared on the 2 Cent piece of 1864. However, two 1866 Seated Liberty dollars are known without the motto and are exceedingly rare. In fact, one of the two 1866 No Motto dollars sold at auction in 2005 for $1.2 million.
Luckily for collectors who can’t afford seven-figure coins, the 1866 Seated Liberty dollar with motto is relatively more affordable. In fact, specimens grading Very Good-8 can be bought for $300 – still an expensive coin, but not nearly as costly as the 1866 No Motto dollar. The value of 1866 With Motto dollars in uncirculated grades is approximately $2,500 for a Mint State-60 specimen. Proofs, meanwhile, typically cost about $4,000.
The mintages of the 1866 dollar depend on the existence of the motto. Again, only two 1866 No Motto dollars are known. Meanwhile, 48,900 of the With Motto type were made in 1866. The proof specimens were made to the tune of 725 pieces. As with all old coins, mintages do not reflect modern-day availability – most 1866 dollars were melted decades ago.
All 1866 dollars were made at the Philadelphia Mint, but Liberty Seated dollars were also struck at several branch facilities during their production, which spanned from 1840 through 1873. These branch mints include the Carson City, New Orleans, and San Francisco Mints. Christian Gobrecht designed the Liberty Seated dollar, and the design is also seen on several other silver denominations, including the half dime, dime, quarter, and half dollar of the period.
Liberty Seated silver dollars circulated during the 1840s and 1850s. However, these coins were mainly used for foreign trade by the 1860s. Their use in foreign exchange channels was due in large part to the increasing silver bullion prices of the 1860s, a period during which large silver coins were popular for trade with other nations.
1866 Liberty Seated dollars consist of a 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper composition. These coins weigh 26.73 grams, contain 0.77344 ounces of pure silver, and measure 38.1 millimeters in diameter. These are the same overall specifications of the Morgan and Peace silver dollars made during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.