1840







General Comments

The Liberty Seated dollar series was initiated at a time when both demand for dollar coins and the supply of silver bullion were small. As a result, most mintages are tiny relative to other lower denomination series of the era. The 1840 is no exception.
Despite its small mintage 1840 is a relatively common date in the Liberty Seated dollar series. Its mintage of 61,005 ranks 28th out of 47 dates. Prices are a little higher than other common dates due to the demand for first-year-of-issue coins. Examples are easy to locate in virtually any grade desired. They only become rare in choice to gem BU, MS63 or better. Choice to gem coins will bring a significant premium over the common date price.
The finest known business strike examples are MS64. PCGS has graded four such examples. NGC has graded one. Dropping down to MS63, the two services have graded a total of 19 examples. A total of 86 coins have been graded in all mint state grades. Several of these grading records are surely re-submissions. Business strike grading statistics are as of February, 2017.

Mintage 61,005
Proof mintage 35 estimated
Mintage ranking 28th
Finest known MS64, PR65
Known obverse dies 5
Known reverse dies 5
Known die marriages 9  (1 unconfirmed)
Most common die marriage OC-1 / R1
Rarest business strike die marriage OC-4 / R6
Rarest die marriage OC-P2 / R8
OC-P5/ Unconfirmed

The finest known proofs are PR65. PCGS has graded a single coin at this level. NGC has graded four. The two services have graded a total of 10 examples at PR64. One NGC PR64 was given a cameo designation. Another 18 examples have been graded PR63. A total of 48 coins have been graded in all proof grades. Those of you who have studied the survival rate section of this book have noted that we estimate a total proof population of 25 coins. The difference between this estimate and the number of proofs documented in the population reports underscores the number of re-submissions that are included in the reports, and is discussed further in the section below devoted to 1840 proofs. Proof grading statistics are as of February, 2017.

1840 examples are usually well struck, with strong hair detail. Stars are well struck, with only occasional softness on the centrals. Wing feathers are usually sharp. An exception is the rare OC-4 die marriage. This marriage was issued in both business strike and proof formats. The business strike examples show significant weakness on the left-wing feathers.

High-grade 1840 business strikes are often prooflike or semi-prooflike. Examples of the common OC-1 die marriage can be found with frosty surfaces, but AU or better examples of the other three business strike die marriages are almost always prooflike.

1840 Proofs


1840 is an interesting year for proof issues, and deserves a separate discussion. PCGS and NGC each show at least 20 coins graded as proof, while we estimate that only a total of 25 exist in that format. Most of this paradox can be attributed to re-submissions. Each service shows many examples in PR63, and several in PR64. We guess that one or more collectors and/or dealers tried numerous times to get several of these coins into higher grade holders. They may have ultimately been successful, but it appears that many attempts were necessary to achieve that success, and that several unsuccessful attempts created grading records that haven’t been deleted from the population reports. Our review of the Heritage archives revealed 12 individual coins sold since 1999, a number consistant with our survival estimate. Another small part of the explanation is the slabbing of early business strikes as proofs. We mentioned previously in our discussion of proofs vs. business strikes that many early strikes have strong prooflike characteristics. With no documentation available to clearly differentiate proofs from business strikes the result has been inconsistency in the proper identification of the format.

We currently believe that the varieties we’ve identified as OC-P1, OC-P2, OC-P3, and OC-P4 were intended to be proof issues, although, as we will note below, the conclusion for OC-P4 is a little shaky. Reverse die PA, used for the OC-P1 and OC-P2 varieties, was used for proofs from 1840 through 1854. No business strikes have been found with this reverse, making these two varieties unquestionably proof-only issues. The dies used to strike OC-P3 were also used to strike the OC-3 business strikes. After examining one of the existing proof examples of this die marriage, a PR64 Cameo example slabbed by PCGS, we concluded that it is unquestionably a proof. Not only does the coin display all the indicators of strike quality that one would expect from a proof, but the obverse has a lint mark below the date, a feature seldom seen on business strikes. We’ve examined numerous examples of this die pair that are clearly business strikes, so our conclusion is that this die pair was used to issue both formats. The proof issues are clearly earlier die states than the business strikes, so that also supports our conclusion. This makes 1840 one of a small number of years that violates our assumption that proof and business strike dies weren’t mixed. Similarly, the dies used to strike OC-P4 were also used to strike OC-4 business strikes. We’ve personally examined one proof example of this die marriage, a PR55 example encapsulated by PCGS. We’ve reviewed high-resolution pictures of two others. All three coins exhibit the strike characteristics that would identify them as proofs. Our reference collection example of this die marriage is weakly struck on the eagle feathers, making it likely that it’s a business strike. Two other examples, from the John Frost collection, have been directly examined. Both exhibit minor strike weakness, making it likely that they were intended as business strikes. We’ve seen pictures of two other lightly circulated examples in the Heritage archives that are slabbed as business strikes. One appears to exhibit the strike weakness of a business strike. The other photo is inconclusive. We’ve concluded for the present that the P3-PC die combination was used for both proofs and business strikes. This conclusion could change in the future if more coins become available for examination.

We’ve also included in our proof die marriage listing a 5th variety, OC-P5. Breen identifies a second die marriage for the P1 obverse die. We have not been able to confirm the existence of this die marriage, but we left the place holder just in case one turns up.

As an aside to this discussion we can address one more issue that has been discussed for many years. Some writers have postulated that all the proofs minted with our 1840 PA reverse are restrikes, struck at some point in the 1850’s or early 1860’s. We’ve found two years, 1840 and 1850, where obverse dies that were paired with this reverse were also used to strike business strikes. We’ve examined proofs for both years and compared them with business strike examples. In each case the business strikes are later die states, indicating that, at least for these two years, the proofs are regular issues, not restrikes. We believe that this is enough data to lead us to the general conclusion that all the proofs married to reverse 1840 PA are regular issues. We’ve confirmed use of the 1840 PA reverse die to strike proofs for all years through 1854 except 1851 and 1853.

1840 Die Marriages

8 die marriages have been positively identified. 4 obverse dies were paired with 4 different reverse dies to strike four business strike die pairs. Two of these die pairs were also used to create proof die marriages. Two additional proof die marriages were struck by the reverse die used for almost all proofs from 1840 through 1854. There is a possibility that a 5th proof die marriage exists. This die marriage is documented in the Breen reference (reference 7). It pairs our Obverse P1 with a reverse die different from that used in our OC-P1 die marriage. We haven’t confirmed the existence of this die pair, but we’ve left a place for it in our die marriage listings for this date. The following table summarizes the known die marriages for 1840.

Click the links below to view the details of the die marriages.

Die Marriage

Rarity

Obverse Die

Reverse Die

Estimated Survivors

OC-1 R1 1 A 1250
OC-2 R4+ 2 B 100
OC-3 R3 P2 PB 375
OC-4 R6 P3 PC 25
OC-P1 R7- P1 PA 10
OC-P2 R8 P2 PA 2
OC-P3 R7+ P2 PB 6
OC-P4 R7+ P3 PC 6
OC-P5 Unknown P1 TBD Unknown


1840 Business Strike Emission Sequence

The 1840 business strike emission sequence can’t be conclusively determined since there is no overlap of any of the currently identified dies. This could change in the future if additional die marriages are discovered which pair one or more of the currently identified dies.

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Emission Order

Die Marriage

Comments

1 OC-1
Placement of all business strike die marriages in the emission sequence is arbitrary
2 OC-2
3 OC-3
4 OC-4


1840 Proof Emission Sequence

We believe that the first 3 positions in the emission sequence are ordered correctly, although it should be noted that the die polishing is very minor and subject to interpretation. Positions 4 and 5 are arbitrary.

Emission Order

Die Marriage

Comments

1 OC-P1
2 OC-P2
Reverse 1840 PA die polishing indicates that OC-P2 follows OC-P1
3 OC-P3
Obverse P2 die polishing indicates that OC-P3 follows OC-P2
4 OC-P4
The position of OC-P4 is arbitrary
5 OC-P5
We've been unable to examine an example of this die marriage, so position 5 in the sequence is also arbitrary


1840 Attribution


Attribution of 1840 coins is relatively simple. The only difficulty is the identification of the reverse die. However, each business strike obverse is married to a different reverse, so conclusive identification of the reverse is only required if the collector suspects a new, previously undocumented die marriage.

The table below summarizes the key characteristics of each of the currently known obverse dies:

Obverse Die
Right Base of 1
Date Slant
Date Grid
1 Vertical
0 Vertical
1 LE Level 4-5.0 VSH C
2 JL of C Level 4-2.0 H H
P1 RE VS down 5-1.0 H SH
P2 JR of C Level 4-4.0 SH SH
P3 R QTR Level 4-3.0 C C


1840 Quick Finder Chart

The table below shows the characteristics that allow quick identification of the die marriages.

Die Marriage

Obv. Die

Rev. Die

Right Base
of 1

Keys to Identification

OC-1 1 A LE Obverse:   RB of 1 is LE. Date is slightly high, level.
Reverse:   Vertical shield line extensions: 1-1 to 7, 1-2 to 3, 1-3 to 5, 5-3 lightly to 2. 3-3 across the first shield border at the bottom.
OC-2 2 B JL of C Obverse:   RB of 1 is JL of C. Date is level. Repunched stars.
Reverse:   No significant extensions across the lower shield border.
OC-3 P2 PB BR of C Obverse:   RB of 1 is JR of C. Date is slightly high, level.
Reverse:   Vertical shield line 1-2 extends into the horizontal lines to line 5. 2-3 and 3-1 across first shield border at bottom.
OC-4 P3 PC R QTR Obverse:   Date is vertically centered.
Reverse:   Almost completely finished between the leaves. No significant extensions across the lower shield border.
OC-P1 P1 1840 PA B Obverse:   RB of 1 is RE. Date is high, slants VS down.
Reverse:   Defects on A3.
OC-P2 P2 1840 PA R QTR Obverse:   RB of 1 is JR of C. Date slightly high, level.
Reverse:   Defects on A3.
OC-P3 P2 PB R QTR Obverse:   RB of 1 is JR of C. Date slightly high, level.
Reverse:   Vertical shield line 1-2 extends into the horizontal lines to line 5. 2-3 and 3-1 across first shield border at bottom.
OC-P4 P3 PC R QTR Obverse:   – Date is vertically centered.
Reverse:   Almost completely finished between the leaves. No significant extensions across the lower shield border.
OC-P5 P1 TBD C Obverse:   RB of 1 is RE. Date is high, slants VS down.
Reverse:   TBD.


Photo credits:

Obverse and reverse full photos:   1840 PCGS PR64 cameo, from the Heritage archives.


Copyright © 2015, by Dick Osburn and Brian Cushing, All rights reserved.