The issue of differentiating between proofs and business strikes is one which we feel hasn’t been thoroughly addressed for Liberty Seated Dollars. Many have discussed the characteristics of business strikes vs. proofs. Few have studied in detail the actual dies used to mint the coins. There are exceptions, most notably the rare early proofs, those minted prior to 1859. But for coins minted after 1858 the available reference material is very limited. We hope to change that picture. Some of our conclusions may be a little radical.
Differentiating a Liberty Seated Dollar proof from a business strike can be very tricky. The dies were large compared to other denominations. For first use they were usually polished, resulting in first strikes that have many of the characteristics of proofs. We’ve seen many examples in proof holders that, upon close examination exhibit features such as minor die cracks and/or light clash marks that aren’t usually found on proofs. We suspect that they aren’t proofs, just early business strikes. We looked for some systematic way to separate proofs from business strikes.
Our major observation has been that, in almost all cases, proof and business strike dies weren’t mixed. The evidence points to a mint process that very carefully identified specific dies for use in minting proofs, and preserved the reverse dies for later re-use. The primary indicator that leads us to this conclusion arises from our attribution of the dies used for proofs. In many cases the reverse proof die is used for several consecutive years. There are numerous notable examples of this practice:
We seldom find examples struck from dies that have been used to strike proofs that are obviously business strikes. Dies used to strike proofs are almost never found with cracks, clash marks, or other indications that they were allowed to deteriorate like business strike dies. We never find proof die marriages with frosty surfaces, die flow lines, or other indications of a business strike. We have found numerous proof-only die marriages that have been circulated, but they always retain some of the proof-like characteristics that one would expect to see on a mishandled proof. We conclude that they are indeed just that – mishandled or lightly circulated proofs.
There are exceptions to this rule. Those that we recognize are:
If our observations and resulting conclusions are correct, there are a significant number of coins now in proof holders that should be re-classified as business strikes. We’ve also noted quite a few proofs, mostly circulated or lightly mishandled, in business strike holders. We invite discussion on the subject.
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