General Comments

The year 1865 continues the popularity and low mintage of the Civil War era. Although the mintage is higher than the other Civil War dates, availability seems to be at least as limited, possibly more so. 1865 coins are scarce in any grade, but particularly so in both low and high grades. The market has recognized this rarity, but even so nice examples, when offered, usually sell well over the prices listed in current price guides.

As with most dates from this era high grades, both proof and business strikes, are more available than lower grades. Highest availability seems to be in the mid-VF to mid-AU grade ranges. Problem-free coins below VF are extremely rare. The population reports show that less than 10% of the business strikes graded are below VF20. Collectors seeking to assemble a certified F/VF set have fewer than 30 examples to choose from. High-end AU and mint state coins seem more difficult than most of the other Civil War dates.

The population reports of both major grading services show that approximately 20% of the graded coins are mint state, a total of 56. Within this group each service shows a single coin in MS65, with almost half the remaining examples in MS64. This indicates that several individuals have tried hard to get one of the MS64 coins into a MS65 holder. We expect that a significant percentage of the MS64 population, possibly as high as 50%, are re-submissions. If we remove these coins from the statistics we find that 1865 is in a virtual tie with 1864 as the rarest Civil War date in mint state (statistics are as of December, 2016).

Mintage 47,000
Proof mintage 500
Mintage ranking 24th
Finest known MS65
Known obverse dies 5
Known reverse dies 4
Known die marriages 6
Most common die marriage OC-2/ R2
Rarest business strike die marriage OC-3/ R5+
Rarest proof die marriage OC-P1/ R6+
The finest known proof is a single PR68 example graded by NGC. The highest proof graded by PCGS is a single PR67 example. NGC has graded six coins at this level, including two which received a Cameo designation. 25 coins have received a PR66 grade. 80 have been designated PR65. A total of 385 coins have been graded at all levels of proof by the two major services (statistics are as of December, 2016). This number places 1865 in a consistent pattern with other Civil War dates. All dates except 1861 show about equal availability in proof, with 1861 being slightly more difficult to locate, even though its mintage is the highest. The number graded is also a clear indication of the number of re-submissions that are represented in the grading service population reports, since we estimate that only a total of 325 proofs have survived.

1865 examples are usually well struck, with star centrals sharply defined and all other details above average. Reverses are usually sharp, only occasionally displaying slight weakness on the upper left wing. One exception seems to the general strike characteristics is our OC-4 die marriage, which often displays significant strike weakness on the hair, star centrals, upper left wing, and left leg. High-grade business strikes are often prooflike or semi-prooflike, but frosty examples are equally available.

1865 Die Marriages

6 die marriages have been positively identified. Four obverse dies were combined with two reverses to strike four business strike die pairs. The first of these die marriages used a reverse unique to 1865. The other three used Reverse A from 1864. None of these dies were used for proofs. Two proof die pairs shared the same obverse die. The first issued, our die marriage OC-P1, used dies unique to 1865. This die marriage was only recently discovered. It uses a reverse die previously unseen in this or any other year. Because of its late arrival we added this die to the bottom of our listings, designating it Reverse PB, rather than change the designator for 1865 Reverse PA (this is the procedure for all new dies discovered after June, 2015). This marriage is apparently very rare. We’ve only confirmed four examples. We’re currently listing it as R6+. We believe that this reverse die may have also been used to strike the extremely rare 1866 NO MOTTO proofs, although we haven’t had the opportunity to study an example to confirm our belief. The second proof, our die marriage OC-P2, marries the same obverse die with 1865 Reverse PA, which was first used to strike almost all 1865 regular issue proofs, then later used to strike several restrikes, including 1851 and 1852 (the 1852 restrike is unconfirmed). The following table summarizes the known die marriages for 1865:

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 R2 2 1864 A 520
OC-3 R5+ 3 1864 A 35
OC-4 R4+ 4 1864 A 85
OC-P1 R6+ P1 PB 15
OC-P2 R3 P2 1865 PA 310
Rarity estimates updated based on data through 12/15/16

1865 Business Strike Emission Sequence

The placement of OC-1 in the emission sequence is arbitrary since it shares no dies with subsequent marriages. The emission sequence of the remaining three die marriages is conclusively determined by progression of the die cracks on 1864 reverse A.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-1 Placement of this die marriage is arbitrary
2 OC-2 Progressive die cracks and die clashing clearly determine the order of the final 3 die marriages
3 OC-3
4 OC-4

1865 Proof Emission Sequence

The placement of the two proof die marriages in the emission sequence is based on die polishing noted on Obverse P1. This polishing is very minor, and our examination of the OC-P1 die marriage was from a picture, so there is still some uncertainty in the emission sequence. This is our best guess based on the data currently available to us.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-P1 This is apparently the earliest obverse die state, but the differences are very minute
2 OC-P2

1865 Quick Finder Chart

Attribution of 1865 die marriages is relatively easy. Several dies display major markers, and the obverse date positions are different enough to allow attribution without worrying too much about the reverse. The following table lists the keys for identifying each variety:

Die Marriage

Obv Die

Rev Die

Base of 1


OC-1 1 A JL of C Obverse: The 1 is slightly low. The date slants VS up. A tiny die chip is connected to Miss Liberty's toe.
Reverse: Strongly repunched U in UNITED.
OC-2 2 1864 A B Obverse: The right base of the 1 is B. The date is level. A tiny die chip in the unfinished area under the chin.
Reverse: An irregular die crack connects ER. Vertical lines 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 extend very faintly to horizontal line 2.
OC-3 3 1864 A LE Obverse: The right base of the 1 is LE. Multiply punched 5.
Reverse: An irregular die crack connects ER. Vertical lines 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 extend very faintly to horizontal line 2.
OC-4 4 1864 A RE Obverse: Bar 6.
Reverse: An irregular die crack connects ER. Vertical lines 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 extend very faintly to horizontal line 2.
OC-P1 P1 PB C Obverse: Minor doubled die obverse.
Reverse: NO die doubling.
OC-P2 P1 1865 PA C Obverse: Minor doubled die obverse.
Reverse: Slightly doubled die, visible at the top of UNI.

Photo credits:

Obverse and reverse full photos:   1865 PCGS MS64 CAC, ex. Gene Gardner, from the Heritage archives.

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