1850 proofs merit a separate discussion. Estimates in the current literature of the original mintage, restrike mintage, and surviving population vary widely, as do opinions on what coins represent originals and what coins represent restrikes. Dave Bowers estimated the proof mintage as 40-60. We believe that this estimate is high. We’ve reviewed all coins sold by Heritage since 2002. We found a total of 13 sales. These represented 9 different coins. We believe that this supports an original mintage of around 35 coins, and a surviving population of 20. Most authors have assumed that some restrikes exist. If this is true it might support a higher mintage estimate. We question whether this date was restruck. We’ll discuss this more in the following paragraphs as we review the known die marriages.
All proof examples that we could confirm, either by direct examination or from pictures, have been struck from the same pair of dies. They pair the obverse die used to create 1850 business strikes with Reverse 1840 PA, the die used to mint almost all original proofs beginning in 1840 and continuing through 1854. As we’ve stated before we believe that all coins that used this reverse die are original proofs. Confirmation of this comes from the fact that several 1850 proofs which we’ve examined have an obverse die that’s in a state earlier than that exhibited by the business strikes. Thus, they were minted prior to the 1850 business strikes. A possible issue comes from the information documented by Breen (reference 7). He states that a few of the proofs from this die marriage exhibit a light to heavy die crack through the base of the date, some with heavy knife rims. He believes that these are restrikes since they were minted after the business strikes. We’ve seen one of the coins that exhibits the heavy knife rims, but have been unable to examine an example with the die crack. The example with the knife rims has an obverse die state later than the early business strikes. We’ve seen one or two other proofs with this die state, meaning that some of the proofs were struck later in the year. However, in keeping with our theory of the usage of Reverse 1840 PA, we believe that these coins were minted late in 1850, and are thus NOT restrikes. The proofs with the die cracks may be late issue proofs, but more likely are highly prooflike business strikes. Again, we believe that they were minted in 1850, and are not restrikes.
Both Breen and Bowers have mentioned a second proof die pair. This marriage paired a different obverse die, one exhibiting NO repunching on the date, with Reverse 1848 A, used to strike 1850 business strikes. The coin mentioned by both authors as an example of this die pairing is the one from the Byron Reed collection, now owned by the city of Omaha, Nebraska. We haven’t personally examined this coin, but we don’t believe that this reverse die was used for proofs, so it’s likely that this coin is a very early business strike. However, the fact that it used a different obverse die is intriguing. In deference to both Dave Bowers and Walter Breen we’re going to leave a place in our die marriage listings for this proof.
Some literature has also suggested that proofs were coined from the business strike die pair. We believe that any such coins would be very early business strikes, still exhibiting the proof surfaces that would have resulted from the obverse die being first used to strike proofs.
Further support for the conclusion that all 1850 proofs are originals comes from our analysis of the proof restrikes of 1851, 1852, 1854, and 1858. With one exception (1854 OC-P3) all these restrikes paired the obverse dies with one of three reverses that were first used in later years – Reverse 1856 PA, Reverse 1859 PA, and Reverse 1865 PA. None of these reverse dies have been found on proof dollars dated 1850. This makes it unlikely that any 1850 proofs were created at the same time as the other restrikes.
In summary, we believe that all 1850 proofs are originals, and that two die pairs may exist, both of which use one die that was also used for business strikes. We hope to have an opportunity in the future to examine an example of the second die pair and draw our own conclusion as to its status as a proof or a business strike.
1850 Die Marriages
We’ve identified a total of 3 die marriages for 1850, two proofs and one business strike. The following table summarizes the known die marriages:
Click the links below to view the details of each die marriage.
A single pair of dies was used to strike all business strikes. We’ve identified this die marriage as OC-1. The obverse die shows strong repunching under the 0. We note that Breen identified two varieties, the Closed 5 (Breen 5442) and Open 5 (Breen 5443). The Open 5 variety used the commonly seen Obverse P1, with the zero in the date repunched. The Closed 5 variety is presumably either Obverse P2 or a later die state of Obverse P1. We’ve been unable to examine an example to determine whether business strikes were generated from the Obverse P2/ Reverse 1848 A die pair. If such an opportunity presents itself in the future we’ll update this section with our findings.
Prior to the striking of the business strikes, Obverse P1 was also used to strike proofs, paired with the common proof reverse used from 1840 through 1854. In the proof die pairing the die exhibits light die polish marks that are seen on some but not all the business strikes. The fact that these polish marks were gone for at least some of the business strikes makes it clear that the proofs were created prior to the business strikes. Since the obverse was first used to strike proofs we’ve identified the die as P1, and the proof die pair as OC-P1.
The die marriage that we’ve identified as OC-P2 represents the Byron Reed coin, which we’ve not had the opportunity to examine. The die marriage has been identified by both Breen (reference 7) and Bowers (reference 4). We believe that this may be a prooflike early strike, but until we’ve had the opportunity to examine the coin we’ve left a place for it as a proof in our listings.
1850 Business Strike Emission Sequence
With only a single die marriage the emission sequence isn't terribly interesting.
1850 Proof Emission Sequence
Since no dies are shared the placement of these two proofs in emission order is arbitrary. We think it’s
likely that the coins which used the common proof reverse die, 1840 PA, were minted first.
1850 Quick Finder Chart
With only two obverse and two reverse dies for the year, and major markers on each, attribution is very easy.
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