General Comments

The year 1869 saw another huge increase in seated dollar mintage, and began a short-lived era of ultra-high mintages, at least by Liberty Seated Dollar standards. The current availability tells a completely different story, as this date is at least scarce. The reasons for this paradox are still debated. Some claim that many were sent to the orient. Others say they just never left the government vaults. Well steer clear of that debate. Whatever the reason, the date is much scarcer than its high mintage would indicate. In most price guides it prices barely above the 1871 and 1872, the two highest mintage dates in the series. It should be considered as under-rated in all grades. All grades are more available than earlier dates in the 1860s, but not enough so to merit a common date price.

As with most dates from the Seated Dollar series high grades are more common than lower grades, although well-circulated coins seem to be more available for this date than for earlier dates in the 1860s. Apparently some coins circulated in spite of the disappearance of most of the issue. Highest availability remains in the mid-VF to mid-AU grade ranges. Problem-free coins below VF are very rare. The somewhat large population reports in low- to mid-grade mint state seem to be accurate. Mint state examples are frequently seen at coin shows and in auctions.

Mintage 424,300
Proof mintage 600
Mintage ranking 44th
Finest known MS66
Known obverse dies 11
Known reverse dies 4
Known die marriages 13
Most common die marriage OC-2/ R2
Rarest business strike die marriage OC-4/ R5
OC-6/ R5
Rarest proof die marriage OC-P1/R5+
The population reports of both major grading services show nearly 25% of the graded coins in mint state. The finest known examples are two MS66 coins graded by PCGS. Five coins have received a MS65 grade, two at PCGS and three at NGC. An additional 16 pieces have been graded MS64. In the lower grades, the population reports show that less than 5% of the business strikes graded are below VF20. Collectors seeking to assemble a G-VF set have fewer than 20 examples to choose from. The greatest availability is in the VF-AU55 range. Population statistics are as of December, 2016. In general, all grades of 1869 are scarce, and will usually bring prices at or above what most price guides indicate. As with most dates the population reports surely include at least a few re-submissions.

In proof, the finest graded examples are nine coins that have been given a PR67 grade, one by PCGS and eight by NGC. The PCGS coin is designated deep cameo. One NGC coin is designated ultra cameo. PCGS has given eleven coins a grade of PR66, with four of these receiving a deep cameo designation. NGC has evaluated eighteen as PR66, with three of these designated as ultra cameos. 54 coins have received a PR65 grade by both services combined. Over 350 coins have been graded at all levels of proof. Proof population statistics are as of December, 2016. In our opinion, the statistics for this date probably include as many or more re-submissions as those for any date in the series. Weve also noted numerous early business strikes mis-attributed as proofs by the grading surfaces, further inflating the proof population numbers.

1869 examples are usually well struck. Star centrals are normally sharply defined, only occasionally showing very slight weakness. All other details are normally above average. Reverses are usually sharp except for slight softness on the upper left wing, which seems to be more normal for this year than for most others. High-grade business strikes are often prooflike or semi-prooflike, but frosty examples can be located. Several die marriages are particularly noted for displaying prooflike surfaces. Weve seen several of these mis-attributed as proofs by major grading services. The business strike die marriage that weve most often encountered in a proof holder is our die marriage OC-2. The OC-2 obverse die was first used to strike proofs, then brought into service to strike business strikes. As a result, many early-state OC-2 examples exhibit highly prooflike surfaces. The OC-2 dies were also polished at least once during their use. Strongly prooflike surfaces are the rule rather than the exception for this die marriage.

1869 Die Marriages

13 die marriages have been positively identified, one of the larger yearly totals for the series. Nine obverse dies were combined with only two reverses to strike nine business strike die pairs. All dies were unique to 1869. One of the obverse dies was used to strike proofs prior to being used for business strikes. Four proof die pairs used three different obverse dies. The first paired an obverse used only for proofs with 1866 Reverse PA, now in its fourth year of use. A second marriage paired the obverse that was later used for business strikes with a reverse used only for proofs. That reverse was subsequently paired with two additional proof-only obverse dies to produce two more proof die marriages. The proof reverse used for the final three die marriages was used again in 1870. The following table summarizes the known die marriages for 1869.

Note that there is no Obverse 2. We discovered recently that Obverse 2 and Obverse P3 were the same. Since the first usage was in the proof pairing we retained Obverse P3 as the identifier and eliminated the use of Obverse 2.

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 150
OC-2 R2 P3 A 850
OC-3 R3+ 3 A 240
OC-4 R5 4 B 50
OC-5 R3+ 5 B 285
OC-6 R5 6 B 50
OC-7 R4- 7 B 175
OC-8 R4+ 8 B 100
OC-9 R4+ 9 B 100
OC-P1 R5+ P1 1866 PA 40
OC-P2 R4 P1 PA 140
OC-P3 R4 P2 PA 160
OC-P4 R5 P3 PA 60
Rarity estimates updated 12/5/16

1869 Business Strike Emission Sequence

With only two reverse dies used, and each cracking progressively as its usage continued, it was relatively easy to determine the emission sequence. The only assumption required was the placement of OC-4, which shared no dies with the previous three die marriages.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-1
2 OC-2 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-2 after OC-1
3 OC-3 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-3 after OC-2
4 OC-4 Placement of OC-4 is arbitrary relative to OC-1 through OC-3 since no dies were shared
5 OC-5 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-5 after OC-4
6 OC-6 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-6 after OC-5
7 OC-7 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-7 after OC-6
8 OC-8 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-8 after OC-7
9 OC-9 Progressive reverse die cracks place OC-9 after OC-8

1869 Proof Emission Sequence

The proof emission sequence was determined by evaluating the extent of die polish displayed by the shared dies. Differences are microscopic, so some uncertainty remains in the results of this evaluation. We assumed that the die marriage which included the transitional reverse (OC-P1) was first in the sequence. The only arbitrary placement was OC-P4 and OC-P1. These two marriages share no dies, but we know that OC-P4 proceeds OC-P2.

Emission Order
Die Marriage
1 OC-P1 The placement of OC-P1 and OC-P4 is arbitrary, although we know that they occupy the first and second positions in the sequence
2 OC-P4 Slightly larger unfinished areas on Reverse PA indicate that OC-P4 preceded OC-P2
2 OC-P2 Slightly smaller unfinished areas on Obverse P1 indicate that OC-P1 preceded OC-P2
3 OC-P3 Slightly smaller unfinished areas on Reverse PA indicate that OC-P2 preceded OC-P3

1869 Quick Finder Chart

Attribution of 1868 die marriages is relatively easy. Date positions are similar, but most obverses display other characteristics that distinguish them. The following table lists the keys for identifying each variety:

Die Marriage

Obv Die

Rev Die

Base of 1


OC-1 1 A LE Obverse: Doubled die obverse. Repunched 1.
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.
OC-2 P3 A JR of C Obverse: 6 in denticles, MPD-001. Repunched 1. Lumps in the field below the center of the 1
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.
OC-3 3 A JR of LE Obverse: Misplaced 1. Serif visible between 18
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.
OC-4 4 B R QTR Obverse: RB of 1 R QTR. No notable markers.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-5 5 B RE Obverse: Misplaced 186 in denticles.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-6 6 B RE Obverse: Doubled die obverse.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-7 7 B RE Obverse: Minor repunched date. Large lump in the skirt above the left side of the 6.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-8 8 B JL of RE Obverse: Lumps in the unfinished area under the chin.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-9 9 B R QTR Obverse: Die line from shield edge into skirt at base of shield line 5-2.
Reverse: Small die chip in the eagle's mouth.
OC-P1 P1 1866 PA B Obverse: Lump on Liberty's neck below the ear lobe.
Reverse: A heavy horizontal die line in the motto from the top right corner of the N through the bottom of GOD.
OC-P2 P1 PA B Obverse: Lump on Liberty's neck below the ear lobe.
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.
OC-P3 P2 PA RE Obverse: Die line in denticles below 89
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.
OC-P4 P3 PA JL of RE Obverse: 6 in denticles, MPD-001. Repunched 1.
Reverse: Doubled die, most visible on the motto.

Photo credits:

Obverse and reverse full photos:   1869 NGC PR67 Cameo, finest known proof, from the Heritage archives.

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