Original 1852 proofs are extremely rare. We’ve identified the original proof as our die marriage OC-P1. It pairs the only known 1852 obverse die, Obverse P1, which was used for both proofs and business strikes, with Reverse die 1840 PA. This reverse was used to strike original proofs for each year from 1840 through 1854. The exceptions are 1851 and 1853, which have no confirmed pairings with this reverse. Although we’ve seen auction companies and grading services identify other die pairings as original proofs, we believe that our die marriage OC-P1 is the only true original proof pairing.
We’ve confirmed the existence of two examples of the original proof, so probably 5 or fewer were originally minted. One of the two known examples is the coin which resides in the reference collection of the American Numismatic Society. We haven’t personally examined this coin, so we don’t know where it fits in the condition census. The second coin is graded PR65 by PCGS. This coin was sold by Heritage in their 2015 Central States Numismatic Society signature auction as part of a collection known as the Virginia Cabinet. At the time, it was graded by NGC as PR66 and attributed as a restrike. Heritage handled the coin, still in its NGC holder, twice in 2016. Both times it failed to meet the reserve. The coin was then crossed to PCGS, who graded it PR65 and attributed it as an original proof. It was sent to CAC and received a green stricker for quality before being offered again and sold at the 2017 Winter FUN auction. Its provenance prior to the 2015 auction is unknown. It did not appear in the December, 2014 NGC census, so it was apparently raw prior to its consignment to the Central States auction.
Most 1852 proofs are restrikes. Estimates of the proof restrike mintage vary from 40 to 100. We believe that the correct estimate is probably around 65, with about 40 surviving today. The finest 1852 restrike is a single coin graded PR65+ by PCGS. In 2017 NGC showed one coin in their census grading PR65 Cameo, pedigreed to the Rod Sweet collection, incorrectly attributed as an original proof. They also showed one PR65+. Both coins have since disappeared from their census, probably crossed to PCGS. Each service indicates three coins graded PR65. NGC in particular has been inconsistent in attributing restrikes vs. originals. As of this point in time, January, 2019, their census doesn’t differentiate between originals and proofs.
The strikes on 1852 proofs vary. The only original proof that we’ve personally examined showed slight weakness on the upper edge of the left wing, so we can’t comment on whether a fully struck original proof exists. Restrikes are usually well-struck, but we’ve seen a small number with weakness on the stars and several with slight weakness on the upper edge of the left wing. A fully struck example can be found with patient searching. Cameo contrast is not unusual on the restrikes. About half of the high-grade examples show some traces of cameo contrast.
1852 proof restrikes have been known since the 1860’s, although at that time they were not necessarily considered restrikes. As time passed more research was done, and more was learned. Walter Breen, in his epic encyclopedia of U. S. proofs (Reference 7) correctly concluded that a single obverse die was used to strike all examples, both business strike and proof. He identified two reverse dies, the reverse first used for 1859 proofs, our die marriage OC-P3, and the reverse of 1840, which we’ve attributed to the original proofs, our die marriage OC-P1. He stated that it was not yet known whether the coins using the reverse of 1840 were originals or restrikes.
David Bowers (reference 4) did the best job we’ve seen of describing 1852 die marriages. He identified six proof die marriages, with a single obverse die paired to six different reverse dies. His die marriage #1 described the die pair used for business strikes. We believe that all examples from this die pair are business strikes, though most exhibit prooflike luster, and a few have been attributed as original proofs by dealers, auction houses, and grading services. Bower’s die marriage #2 described our die pair OC-P1, the original proof. His die marriage #3 described a die marriage which we’ve been unable to confirm, combining the 1852 obverse with the reverse die used for 1851 business strikes, Reverse 1848 A. We believe that this die pair, if it exists, would be a business strike. We’ve left a place for it in our listing, die marriage OC-2. Bower’s die marriage #4, which he correctly considered a restrike, described our die pair OC-P3, pairing the 1852 obverse with the proof reverse of 1859. His die marriage #5 described another die marriage which we’ve been unable to confirm, but which we believe probably exists. It combines the 1852 obverse with the reverse die used for 1865 proofs. We’ve left a place for it in our listing, die marriage OC-P4. Bower’s final die marriage, #6, described our die pair OC-P2, which pairs the 1852 obverse with the proof reverse die used originally for 1856 and 1857 proofs. He stated at the end of his descriptions that “It is unlikely that six different reverse dies were used to coin Proof 1852 dollars; possibly, some of the preceding listings are duplications.” To the contrary we believe that there are indeed six different die marriages (assuming that the two unconfirmed marriages exist). He did an outstanding job of describing them.
Why were the restrikes created? Based on letters documented in references 4 and 16 it’s clear that mint officials wanted examples of rare dates both to sell to collectors and to trade to collectors for coins and medals needed to expand the mint cabinet. Collectors of that day weren’t particularly interested in business strikes. They wanted proofs. The 1852, with a tiny original proof mintage, definitely qualified as a rare date, and thus was an obvious candidate for restriking.
Our analysis of 1851 dies confirmed that 3 different restrike die marriages were created. The reverse dies were our Reverse 1856 PA, first used for 1856, 1857, and 1858 original proofs; our Reverse 1859 PA, first used for 1859 original proofs; and our Reverse 1865 PA, first used for 1865 original proofs. We believe that these same 3 reverse die were used to create 1852 restrikes, and that they were coined at the same time as their 1851 counterparts. We’ve identified these three die marriages as OC-P2, OC-P3, and OC-P4. We’ve confirmed examples of OC-P2 and OC-P3. We haven’t personally confirmed an example of OC-P4, but the die pairing was listed by Bowers. We defer to Dave’s vast experience and conclude that a few examples probably exist. The 1851 counterpart is also very rare. We’ve confirmed a single example. This is consistent with our assumptions relative to the corresponding 1852 die marriage. All these die marriages are described in detail in the sections which appear later in this chapter.
As with all other references our estimates of when the restrikes might have been created are based on the same circumstantial evidence others have used, but aided by our having identified the specific dies that were used for each restrike. The 1852 restrikes were minted in two, probably three timeframes. The first restrikes, our die marriage OC-P2, mated the only 1852 obverse die, our Obverse P1, to Reverse 1856 PA, the die previously used to strike original proofs from 1856, 1857, and 1858. The timeframe for this striking is simply an educated guess. We believe that they were struck in the late 1858-early 1859 timeframe, after the reverse die was used to strike 1858 originals. Examples of this die pair are extremely rare. We’ve never personally examined an example. We’ve confirmed only two examples in the Heritage archives.
The second restrikes, our die marriage OC-P3, paired Obverse P1 with Reverse 1859 PA, the reverse die first used to mint all 1859 proofs. We believe that they were minted in late 1859 or early 1860. We identified the timeframe for their striking by noting that Reverse 1859 PA wasn’t carried over to strike 1860 proofs, so we assume that it was retired soon after its use in 1859, and would only have been available for a short period.
The third restrikes, our die marriage OC-P4, mated Obverse P1 with the reverse die first used to strike almost all 1865 proofs. We believe that they were minted in late 1865 or early 1866. Again, we identified the timeframe for their striking by noting that Reverse 1865 PA wasn’t carried over to strike 1866 proofs, so we assume that it was retired soon after its use in 1865, and would only have been available for a short period. Another factor that supports this conclusion is the change that occurred in 1866, from the NO MOTTO reverse to WITH MOTTO. Additionally, we note a record that the first sale of a copper 1851 dollar, J-132, was in October, 1865 (reference 16). This pattern used the same dies as our 1851 OC-P4 die marriage, and represents the creation of the 1851 restrike equivalent to our 1852 die marriage OC-P4.
1852 Die Marriages
We’ve identified a total of 6 die marriages for 1852, 2 business strikes and 4 proofs. Two of the marriages are unconfirmed, but we believe the probability that they exist is high. The following table summarizes the known die marriages:
A single obverse die was used to strike all 1852 issues, both business strikes and proofs. The commonly seen business strike pairs the 1852 obverse with a reverse die unique to 1852. We’ve identified this die pair as OC-1. We’ve seen an example of this die pair attributed as a proof, but we believe that all OC-1 examples were intended to be business strikes. Early strikes were probably extremely prooflike since the obverse die was also used to strike original proofs, probably prior to the time it was employed to strike business strikes.
A second die marriage, identified by Dave Bowers (reference 4), pairs the 1852 obverse with Reverse 1848 A, which was first used to strike 1848 business strikes, and subsequently to strike the business strikes of 1849, 1850, and 1851. Dave identified this marriage as a proof. We have yet to confirm its existence, but if it exists we believe that it would be a business strike, consistent with the previous usages of this reverse die. We respect Dave’s vast experience enough to believe that the die marriage must exist, so we’ve left a place for it in our die marriage array, our die marriage OC-2. If confirmed it’s possible that it could be first in the emission sequence, which would place our OC-2 designation in the incorrect order. Since we haven’t confirmed it, we’ve left it as OC-2, and that will be its attribution when an example is located.
The first proof die marriage, our OC-P1, is the original proof. This is a rare die marriage, with only two examples currently known. The remaining three die marriages are proof restrikes.
Our die marriage OC-P2 pairs the 1852 obverse with the reverse die which was used to strike original proofs in 1856, 1857, and 1858. This is another very rare die marriage. We’ve confirmed only two examples.
Our die marriage OC-P3 pairs the 1852 obverse with the reverse die first used to strike all original 1859 proofs. This is the predominant restrike die marriage. Over 80% of the examples we’ve documented are from this die pairing.
The final die pair, another restrike, our die marriage OC-P4, pairs the 1852 obverse with the reverse die which was used to strike proofs in 1865. This is another die marriage which we’ve been unable to confirm. This die pair was also identified by Dave Bowers (reference 4), and its existence is consistent with the results of our research on 1851 restrikes, so we have a reasonably high confidence that at least one or two exist, enough confidence to add the identification to our die marriage array.
1852 Business Strike Emission Sequence
As noted previously we have no way to confirm the business strike emission sequence since we’ve been unable to
examine an example of the OC-2 die marriage.
1852 Proof Emission Sequence
We assume that the original 1852 proof is the first issue. The 3 restrikes were placed in the emission sequence based on the original timeframes in which the reverse dies were used. The degradation of the obverse die after its initial use wasn’t enough to conclusively confirm the emission sequence.
1852 Quick Finder Chart
1852 die marriages are easy to attribute. All die marriages share the same obverse die, but each of the 6 reverse dies displays
unique characteristics that allow quick attribution.
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