[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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This following table (B-2) listing is meant to provide the interested numismatist with an idea of how vigorous the authors have scrutinized the various dates in the half dollar series. A higher degree of effort for a particular date indicates a smaller chance of a major variety being unidentified by the authors. The key is provided below the table.
WORKING DIE SHIPMENTS TO THE BRANCH MINTS
All working dies were totally prepared at the Philadelphia Mint except for final hardening which was done at the branch mint. It was common practice for a branch mint to request from the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia a number of dies late in the year for use in the next year. The Director would order the Engraver to prepare a number of head and tail dies which would then be shipped to the branch mint. The number of dies shipped from Philadelphia was often less than the request but pre-dated dies were shipped to the branch mint sometimes as early as a few months prior to the beginning of the intended year of use. This early shipment of dies facilitated mintage of correctly dated coins after the first day of the new year but also permitted possible use in the year before that intended. Other dies were requested and shipped throughout the year as required.
When working dies became either worn out or outdated, they were canceled. The Superintendent of the New Orleans Branch Mint was given specific instructions regarding disposition of dies (We assume the other branch mints were given similar instructions). Early each calendar year, dated head dies of the previous year and worn out (heavily cracked or worn) tail dies were to be canceled at the branch mint in the presence of the Superintendent by cutting a cross or “X” across the face of each die. A detailed list of canceled dies was to be sent to the Director of the Mint when accomplished, thus accounting for the dies.
Slightly used or unused tail dies could be “carried over” for use in the next year. The use of these transitional dies occurred very often. By law (or policy), head dies could not be used in years other than which they were dated.
Table B-4 summarizes the number of known working dies shipped to the various branch mints for use in the year indicated. This information was derived from fragmentary records in . Advanced collectors may, at some point, desire to expand on the varieties in their collections and to collect coins struck from each die pair. This table will provide a handy reference of the minimum number of dies available for use in a single year and is directly related to the number of die marriages available. Bear in mind, however, reverse dies could be and were used in more than a single year and head and tail dies could be paired in multiple combinations for many possible die marriages. This table does not include dies held over (not used) from previous years.