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.
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 it’s not. We’d 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 and one MS65, both slabbed by PCGS. 21 coins have been graded at the
MS64 level, 6 by PCGS and 15 by NGC. One of the PCGS coins received a MS64+ grade. 24 have been graded MS63.
A total of 70 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, 2019.
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 19, including one ultra cameo and two PR66+, one of them Cameo. We suspect
that a significant number of the NGC grades are re-submissions, trying to get the elusive PR67 evaluation. A
total of 34 coins have been given a PR65 grade, including one PR65+ at PCGS. Over 350 have been graded as proof
at all levels, far more than for any previous year. Population statistics are as of January, 2019.
|Mintage ||256,500 |
|Proof mintage ||800 |
|Mintage ranking ||40th |
|Finest known ||MS66 |
|Known obverse dies ||4|
|Known reverse dies ||4|
|Known die marriages ||5|
|Most common die marriage ||OC-2/ R3- |
|Rarest business strike die marriage ||OC-1/ R4+ |
|Rarest proof die marriage ||OC-P1 / R3|
1859 Die Marriages
5 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.
||R4+ ||1 ||A ||110 |
||R3- ||1 ||B ||410 |
||R3+ ||2 ||C ||290 |
||R4- ||3 ||D ||190 |
||R3+ ||P1 ||1859 PA ||350 |
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. OC-P1
is the only proof die marriage that we have confirmed. It shows minor repunching on the 1. The original digit
was punched slightly low, then corrected to the proper position. 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.
Some references have claimed that two different proof die marriages were struck in 1859. We have not been able to
confirm the existence of the second proof die marriage. However, we’ve seen one coin, the Reiver coin, NGC PR64,
that may have possibly been struck using a different reverse. It was auctioned by Heritage with the Reiver
collection in January, 2006. The obverse is our Obverse P1. The reverse doesn’t appear to display the 1859 PA
diagnostics. It’s possibly our Reverse 1856 PA, first used in 1856 to strike original proofs, but the photo in
the Heritage archives isn’t high enough resolution to confirm the attribution. We maintain the possibility that
the second proof die pair may exist. If it’s identified in the future we’ll add it to our listing. If anyone
reading this currently owns the Reiver coin we’d 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 can’t say for sure where the other two
marriages fit in. If new marriages are discovered which share any of the known dies we’ll update the emission
sequence as required.
|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 proof die marriage known the emission sequence is simple.
|1 ||OC-P1 || |
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.
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. |
Reverse:   Lumps in the feathers of the lower left wing.
Obverse and reverse full photos:   PCGS PR67 Cameo CAC, finest known, from the Heritage archives.