General Comments

1859-S is a rare date in the Liberty Seated Dollar series. The mintage was low, and many were exported to the orient. In spite of this the date is available with patient searching, in some cases more so than the mintage would indicate.

The availability by grade shows a curious feature. Based on statistics from the major third-party grading services the prevalent grades are VF-AU. Just over 400 examples have been graded by PCGS and NGC. Of these fewer than 15% grade below VF20, and barely over 10% grade mint state. Very few examples circulated heavily, but even fewer were saved from circulation. Collectors seeking to complete a problem-free low to mid-grade set and those seeking coins in choice to gem mint state will both have challenging searches.

The finest known 1859-S is a single MS65 coin graded by NGC. PCGS has graded none at that level. They have given one coin a MS64+ grade, while NGC has graded none at the MS64 level. The two services have given a combined 13 coins a grade of MS63. In choice BU, this is one of the rarest dates in the entire series. Surprisingly the date is very available in AU58, with a total of 36 coins receiving that grade from the two major services. Population statistics are as of March, 2017.

Mintage 20,000
Proof mintage None
Mintage ranking Tied for 15th
Finest known MS65
Known obverse dies 2
Known reverse dies 2
Known die marriages 2
Most common die marriage OC-1/ R2
Rarest die marriage OC-2/ R4
A fully struck 1859-S is a rarity. Almost all examples seen display at least minor weakness on the star centrals, and they’re almost never seen without slight weakness on the feathers at the upper edge of the eagle’s left wing. We’ve seen a few with well-struck stars, but can’t recall ever seeing an example with a full strike on the left wing.

1859-S surfaces are occasionally frosty, but more often at least slightly prooflike. With two die pairs sharing the 20,000 mintage the dies didn’t wear enough to produce fully frosty examples.

1859-S Die Marriages

Two obverse dies were paired with two reverses to strike the two known die marriages. The following table summarizes the known die marriages:

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

Die Marriage
Obverse Die
Reverse Die
Estimated Survivors
OC-1 R2 1 A 650
OC-2 R4 2 B 150

We note that Breen (reference 20) listed two 1859-S varieties. Breen 5461 was described as “normal date”. Breen 5462 was the “repunched 18”. He rated Breen 5462 as “extremely rare”. As you will see in the following sections both the known die marriages are Breen 5462. They exhibit the repunching in early states. Evidence of the repunching disappears as the dies wear and are polished. Examples with clear repunching are scarce but not rare. They can be easily found with patient searching.

1859-S Emission Sequence

No dies were shared between the two known die marriages, so there's no way to conclusively identify the emission sequence.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-1 Sequencing of the two known die marriages is arbitrary.
2 OC-2

1859-S Quick Finder Chart

The two reverse dies are very similar, but the obverse date position allows quick attribution.

Die Marriage

Obv Die

Rev Die

Base of 1


OC-1 1 A L QTR Obverse:   Left date. 1 aligns 4-2.5. RB of 1 is L QTR. 18 is repunched in early die states, but this is the case for both dies, so it's not a characteristic that should be used for attribution.
Reverse:   Mintmark position is virtually identical for both dies. Most OC-1 examples exhibit numerous reverse die cracks.
OC-2 2 B B Obverse:    Right date. 1 aligns 4-4.5. RB of 1 is B. 18 is repunched in early die states, but this is the case for both dies, so it's not a characteristic that should be used for attribution.
Reverse:    Mintmark position is virtually identical for both dies. No examples of OC-2 with reverse die cracks have been seen.

Photo credits:

Obverse and reverse full photos:   1859-S NGC MS63, ex. Gene Gardner, from the Heritage archives.

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