General Comments

With one of the higher mintages in the Liberty Seated dollar series 1859 would appear to be a common date. Those who have searched for the date will attest that its not. Wed call it very scarce, one of the most overlooked dates in the series. Most of the coins minted were exported to the Orient and subsequently melted for their silver content. Examples can be located, but patient searching is required. They become rare in mint state, and very rare in choice to gem BU.

The finest known examples are one MS66+, one MS66, and one MS65, all slabbed by PCGS. 21 coins have been graded at the MS64 level, 7 by PCGS and 14 by NGC. One of the PCGS coins received a MS64+ grade. 25 have been graded MS63. A total of 74 coins have been graded at all levels of mint state. The number of mint state examples known is almost certainly inflated in the population reports due to re-submissions. We consider any example above MS62 as extremely rare. Population statistics are as of January, 2021.

In proof format 1859 begins the era of regular, documented proof issues, with much higher availability than any previous year. The finest coin is a single PR67+ graded by PCGS. Eight coins have been graded PR67, four by PCGS, including two Cameos, and four by NGC, including one Cameo. At the PR66 level PCGS has graded three coins, one of them cameo. NGC has graded 21, including one ultra cameo and two PR66+, one of them Cameo. We suspect that these grading records, particularly the PR66 coins at NGC, include a significant number of re-submissions, trying to get the elusive PR67 or PR68 evaluation. A total of 34 coins have been given a PR65 grade, including one PR65+ at PCGS. Over 380 have been graded as proof at all levels, far more than for any previous year. Population statistics are as of January, 2021.

Mintage 256,500
Proof mintage 800
Mintage ranking 40th
Finest known MS66+
Known obverse dies 4
Known reverse dies 6
Known die marriages 6
Most common die marriage OC-3/ R3
Rarest business strike die marriage OC-1/ R4+
Rarest proof die marriage OC-P2 / R7+
1859 examples are usually well struck, occasionally displaying very slight softness on the star centrals, hair detail, and/or the upper left wing feathers. High-grade business strikes are sometimes prooflike or semi-prooflike, but more often frosty. With high mintage and a small number of die pairings the dies wore sufficiently to eliminate prooflike surfaces for most examples.

1859 Die Marriages

6 die marriages have been positively identified. The following table summarizes the known die marriages for 1859:

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

Die Marriage
Obverse Die
Reverse Die
Estimated Survivors
OC-1 R4+ 1 A 110
OC-2 R3 1 B 370
OC-3 R3 2 C 345
OC-4 R4- 3 D 175
OC-P1 R3+ P1 1859 PA 345
OC-P2 R7+ P1 1856 PA 5

Three obverse dies were paired with 4 reverse dies to strike all business strikes. All the business strike die marriages are scarce, but none particularly rare. None of the business strike dies were used for proofs.

Two different proof die marriages have been confirmed. Both use Obverse P1, which shows minor repunching on the 1. The original digit was punched slightly low, then corrected to the proper position. The first proof die marriage, our OC-P1, is the one most commonly seen. It uses a reverse die which was also used for 1851, 1852, 1854, and 1858 proofs. We believe that all these early dates are restrikes, minted after the 1859 proofs. The second proof die marriage, our OC-P2, uses a die, Reverse 1856 PA, that was first used for 1856 regular issue proofs. This die marriage is extremely rare. Weve confirmed only a single example, an NGC PR64. It was auctioned by Heritage with the Jules Reiver collection in January, 2006. The photo in the Heritage archives doesnt have enough resolution to confirm that attribution with absolute certainty, but when added to other circumstantial evidence we concluded that it was enough to merit adding the die marriage to our document. If anyone reading this currently owns the Reiver coin, or another example of this die marriage, wed love to hear from you and have the opportunity to examine the coin.

1859 Business Strike Emission Sequence

Because no dies were shared between three of the four die marriages the emission sequence listed below is partially arbitrary. We know that OC-1 came before OC-2, but we cant say for sure where the other two marriages fit in. If new marriages are discovered which share any of the known dies well update the emission sequence as required.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-1 Perfect obverse for all examples seen.
2 OC-2 Obverse 1 die polish and the appearance of rim cuds indicate that OC-2 follows OC-1.
3 OC-3 Placement in the emission sequence is arbitrary.
4 OC-4 Placement in the emission sequence is arbitrary.

1859 Proof Emission Sequence

With only a single example of the OC-P2 die marriage known the emission sequence is merely an educated guess. If we have the opportunity to examine the Reiver coin, or another example of OC-P2, well update this sequence as required.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-P1
2 OC-P2

1859 Quick Finder Chart

Attribution of 1859 die marriages is relatively easy. The obverse dies display few markers, but fortunately the date positions are significantly different. The following table lists the keys for identifying each die marriage. Take care in attributing Obverse 2 vs. the proof obverse. There are quite a few circulated proofs in business strike holders. The Obverse 2 date is much higher in the field.

Die Marriage

Obv Die

Rev Die

Base of 1


OC-1 1 A JR of C Obverse:   Slightly low date.
Reverse:   Horizontal shield line #1 extends to the left across the first shield border but not across the second.
OC-2 1 B JR of C Obverse:   Slightly low date.
Reverse:   Horizontal shield line #1 extends to the left outside the shield border but isn't seen between the borders.
OC-3 2 C LE Obverse:   High date.
Reverse:   Lightly doubled extension of horizontal shield line #1 into the wing feathers.
OC-4 3 D R QTR Obverse:   Left date, grid = 4-1.0.
Reverse:   NO extension of horizontal shield line #1 to the left.
OC-P1 P1 1859 PA LE Obverse:   Repunched 1, Grid=4-5.0. Date much lower than Obverse 2.
Reverse:   Lumps in the feathers of the lower left wing.
OC-P2 P1 1856 PA LE Obverse:   Repunched 1, Grid=4-5.0. Date much lower than Obverse 2.
Reverse:   Die rust lumps on the L in DOL and the first S in STATES.

Photo credits:

Obverse and reverse full photos:   PCGS PR67 Cameo CAC, finest known, from the Heritage archives.

Copyright 2015-2021, by Dick Osburn and Brian Cushing, All rights reserved.