1856 examples can be found with strikes that vary from good to very sharp. Star centrals and hair detail
are generally sharp. Some examples show slight weakness on the eagle’s leg feathers. Fully struck
examples can be found with patient searching. High-grade business strikes are sometimes prooflike but
more often frosty.
1856 is a semi-key date in the Liberty Seated dollar series. Its mintage, low by general standards,
but mid-range for Seated dollars, doesn’t properly indicate its rarity. With a mintage ranking of
30th out of 47 the collector would expect that it would be easy to locate, but that’s usually not
the case. It can be found with patient searching, but it’s not readily available.
Mint state examples are truly rare. The finest known examples are MS64. Current population reports
show three MS64 examples graded by PCGS, two by NGC. Even with only 5 reported its very possible
that one or two of these are re-submissions. An additional ten examples are graded MS63, six by
PCGS, four by NGC. A total of 33 coins have been graded mint state by the two major services,
making this one of the toughest coins in the series in high grades. Population statistics are as
of January, 2019.
The finest known proof is a single PR67 Cameo graded by NGC. Four coins have been graded PR66, one
by PCGS and three by NGC. The PCGS coin is PR66+, the highest graded by that service. NGC has
also graded 6 coins PR65. PCGS has graded three at that level. Several of these gem examples are
almost surely re-submissions. Twenty-eight coins have been graded PR64, eleven at PCGS, seventeen
at NGC. A total of 69 coins have been graded as problem-free proofs by the two major grading
services. Population statistics are as of January, 2019.
|Known obverse dies
|Known reverse dies
|Known die marriages
|Most common die marriage
|Rarest business strike die marriage
|Rarest die marriage
1856 Die Marriages
The following table summarizes the known 1856 die marriages:
A single die pair was used to strike all business strikes. We’ve identified this die pair as OC-1.
Neither die was used for proofs. No clash marks have been observed, but the reverse is normally
heavily cracked. We’ve seen two examples with perfect dies, but this die state seems to be extremely
rare. OC-1 is a very interesting die marriage. The obverse die has long been identified as an
overdate. Many early references called it 1856/4. Breen included this variety in his Encyclopedia
(reference 20) as Breen 5454 and listed it as “extremely rare”. He also included a normal date
variety, Breen 5453. In 2012 we determined that the 1856/4 is actually a repunched date, 1856/6,
with the underlying 6 rotated by approximately 45 degrees. Our findings were documented in an
article in the Gobrecht Journal (reference 12). Moreover, it’s the ONLY 1856 variety. Only one die
was used for all business strike issues, with the early die states clearly showing the under-digit,
the late states less so. We’ve included this variety (early die state only) as one of our Top-30.
The single proof variety, OC-P1, paired a unique obverse die with a reverse die that was used again
in 1857 and 1858, and subsequently for several restrikes. It’s a rare proof, with only 50 or so
estimated survivors from an estimated mintage of 80. Attribution of proofs is simple since the date
shows none of the repunching that’s characteristic of the business strikes.
1856 Business Strike Emission Sequence
With only one business strike die marriage the emission sequence isn't terribly interesting.
1856 Proof Emission Sequence
The proof emission sequence is just as interesting as the business strike sequence.
1856 Quick Finder Chart
With only two die marriages, one business strike and one proof, attribution is easy.
The following table summarizes the key features that identify each die.
Keys to Identification
|Obverse:   Base of 1 is RE. Notable repunching on the 6.
Reverse:   Lumps extend from the left edge of the left wing. Most die states exhibit numerous die cracks.
|JL of RE
|Obverse:   Base of 1 is JL of RE. Perfect 6, NO repunching.
Reverse:   Die rust lumps on the L in DOL and first S in STATES.
Obverse and reverse full photos: PCGS PR63, from the Heritage archives.