A restrike is defined as a coin that was struck in a year later than the date indicated on the coin. Seated dollar restrikes have long been a controversial topic of discussion. Most are aware of the restrikes of 1851 and 1852. We found other references to restrikes of 1853, 1854, and 1858. Most references indicate that 1853 proofs are ONLY restrikes. No originals have been documented.
Most of the information on which dates were restruck comes from a number of pieces of correspondence that have been discovered in the National Archives. Since this reference is a study of die marriages we decided that, instead of extrapolating from the information found in the archives, we’d examine the coins themselves to see what the dies tell us. Three dies of particular interest deserve individual discussions.
This reverse die was used to strike proofs beginning in 1840. Proofs using this reverse have been documented for every year from 1840 through 1854 except 1851 and 1853. Although they haven’t been documented we suspect that at least a small number exist for the years 1851 and 1853. We’ve found two years, 1840 and 1850, where proofs which used this reverse shared an obverse die which was also used for business strikes. In both cases the proofs exhibit an earlier obverse die state than the business strikes, indicating that the proofs are originals. Based on this information we’ve concluded that all uses of this reverse die represent original proofs.
This reverse die is the only one known to have been used in striking 1856 proofs. Its usage was continued in 1857 and 1858 to strike original proofs. This die has also been found paired to proofs of 1851 and 1852. We believe, based on die wear, that 1856 was the first use of this die, and that the 1857 and 1858 pairings were also originals, representing the second and third usages. This makes the 1851 and 1852 pairings restrikes, and fits with the interpretation of mint correspondence that has caused almost all 1851 and 1852 proofs to be considered restrikes. However, it should be noted that the die wear differences are microscopic, and open to interpretation, so there is some uncertainty if the conclusion is based completely on die wear. However, based on the preponderance of evidence, we believe that this die was prepared for the striking of 1856 proofs. When mint personnel decided that restrikes of certain key dates were called for, probably sometime in late 1858 or early 1859, it was the available proof die and was thus used for the restrikes.
This reverse die is the only one known to have been used in striking 1859 proofs. 1859 was the first year for which proof mintage was documented by the mint. The number of proofs minted was much larger than in previous years. The fact that all 1859 proofs use this reverse die confirms that it was created for the striking of the 1859 proofs. This die has also been found paired to proofs of 1851, 1852, 1854, and 1858. We believe, based on die wear, that 1859 was the first use of this die. This makes all other pairings restrikes, and fits with the interpretation of mint correspondence that has caused 1851 and 1852 pairings to be considered restrikes. It should be noted that the die wear differences are microscopic, and open to interpretation, so there is some uncertainty if the conclusion is based completely on die wear. However, based on the preponderance of evidence, we believe that this die was prepared for the striking of 1859 proofs. When mint personnel decided that additional restrikes of certain key dates were called for, sometime in late 1859, it was the available proof die and was thus used for the restrikes.
This reverse die was first used to strike almost all of the 1865 proof mintage. Sometime later it was paired with 1851 Obverse P2 to produce restrikes. We confirmed this sequence by noting that the 1851 pairing of Reverse PA is a slightly later die state than the 1865 pairing. As with our 1859 Reverse PA findings the wear differences were minor, but other evidence supports the conclusion. This third round of 1851 restrikes was most likely minted in late 1865 or early 1866. It’s possible that the time of mintage could have been later, as proof reverse dies were often kept for multiple years, but 1866 was the first year of the with motto reverse, so we believe the no motto reverse dies were probably destroyed before the end of the year. Additionally we note a record that the first sale of a copper 1851 dollar, J-132, was in October, 1865 (reference 16). This pattern used the same dies as our 1851 OC-P4 die marriage, and was probably struck near the same time as the 1851 silver restrikes.
With these findings noted we believe that we can summarize the existence of restrikes as follows:
Almost all 1850 dollars, both proofs and business strikes, used the same obverse die, with notable repunching on the 0. This die was mated to both the normal 1850 business strike reverse die, Reverse 1848 A, and to the die used for proofs since 1840, Reverse 1840 PA. We believe that all the examples with the obverse married to Reverse 1840 PA are original proofs. We haven’t found Reverse 1840 PA used to strike restrikes in any other year. Had it been used for restrikes we believe that we would have found other dates mated to this reverse that could be proven by die wear to be restrikes. Since this isn’t the case we believe that the 1850 proofs are all originals, minted in 1850. The proofs were minted at two different times. The obverse die for the second striking displays a die crack at the base of the date. This crack appeared late in the business strike issue. A few proofs were apparently struck after the crack appeared. However we have no reason to believe that these were restrikes. and thus we don’t believe that restrikes exist for this year.
Both Breen and Bowers noted a second obverse die for 1850, one with no repunching on the 0. The example noted in both references was the coin from the Byron Reed Collection, now in the Omaha, Nebraska City Library. This coin is apparently a pairing of this unique obverse die with the reverse die first used for business strikes in 1848, Reverse 1848 A. To date we haven’t had the opportunity to personally examine this coin. We hope to have that opportunity in the future, but for now our conclusions are based on assumptions. Our assumption that proof and business strike dies weren’t mixed would lead to the conclusion that this coin is a very prooflike business strike, since the reverse die was used for business strikes in at least four years, and has not been found in any proof pairings. However, the fact that the obverse die usage is unique, or at the least extremely rare, could indicate that it’s truly a proof. For now we’ve left a place for this die marriage in our listings, our die marriage 1850 OC-P2, an original proof. We’ll update this in the future if new information is discovered or if examination of the Byron Reed coin leads to a different conclusion.
Restrikes were minted in three timeframes. The first restrikes appeared in the late 1850’s, probably in late 1858 or early 1859, mating a new, or at least previously unused obverse die, Obverse P2, to Reverse 1856 PA, the die previously used to strike original proofs in 1856, 1857, and 1858. The timeframe for this striking is simply an educated guess. Examples of this die pair are extremely rare. The only example we’ve confirmed is the coin sold by David Lawrence Rare Coins as part of the Richmond collection.
The second restrikes were minted in late 1859 or early 1860. They paired Obverse P2 with Reverse 1859 PA, the reverse die used to mint all 1859 proofs. We identified the timeframe for their striking by noting that Reverse 1859 PA wasn’t carried over to strike 1860 proofs, so we assume that it was retired soon after its use in 1859, and would only have been available for a short period of time.
The third restrikes appeared in late 1865 or early 1866, mating a new, or at least previously unused obverse die, Obverse P3, with the reverse die used to strike most 1865 proofs. Again we identified the timeframe for their striking by noting that Reverse 1865 PA wasn’t carried over to strike 1866 proofs, so we assume that it was retired soon after its use in 1865, and would only have been available for a short period of time. Another factor that supports this conclusion is the change that occurred in 1866, from the NO MOTTO reverse to WITH MOTTO.
Of the 1851 restrike die pairings OC-P2 is the rarest at R8, OC-P3 the most common at R6-. OC-P4 falls in between at R6+.
As with 1851 we believe that restrikes were minted in three timeframes - late 1858 or early 1859, late 1859 or early 1860, and finally in late 1865 or early 1866. They mated the same obverse die used for all 1852 dollars first to Reverse 1856 PA, then to Reverse 1859 PA, and finally to Reverse 1865 PA. They were apparently minted at the same time as the 1851 restrikes. We should note that the third restrike die pairing, our 1852 OC-P4, is unconfirmed, but we believe that it almost certainly exists.
1853 proof dollars have historically been classified as restrikes. Breen (reference 7) indicated that they used a reverse die from the 1862-63 timeframe. We cannot confirm whether the proofs of 1853 were originals or restrikes, but we can say conclusively that they did not use a reverse die that was also used in 1862 or 1863. To date we have not matched the 1853 proof reverse to a die used in any other year of Liberty Seated Dollar coinage, either proof or business strike. Circumstantial evidence can be cited to prove that the 1853 proofs are restrikes, but the same can be said for proving that they’re originals. For the present we’re going to conclude that they’re restrikes, to be consistent with existing documentation. It should be noted, however, that we consider this conclusion as unsubstantiated. We’ll continue to look for evidence that leads to a clear, well-documented conclusion.
Our findings related to 1854 proof dollars differ significantly from most of the existing literature. We’ve found three proof die marriages. The first pairs a unique 1854 obverse with Reverse 1840 PA, the workhorse reverse die used to strike most early proofs beginning in 1840. We believe that this die marriage represents the only original 1854 proof issue. This die marriage is extremely rare. We’ve confirmed only a single example, and estimate that 3 or fewer exist. The other two die marriages share an obverse die, Obverse 1854 P2, that displays a notably repunched date. This die has been described in detail in the literature and in auction catalogs. Most have assumed that examples minted with this obverse die are originals. Our findings indicate that they are restrikes. The most common of the two die pairings, OC-P2, mates Obverse 1854 P2 to Reverse 1859 PA, and as with the 1851 and 1852 restrikes, was struck in late 1859 or early 1860. The third die marriage, OC-P3, mates Obverse 1854 P2 with Reverse 1854 PA. In the OC-P3 pairing Obverse 1854 P2 is in a slightly later die state, indicating that this pairing is also a restrike. We have not found Reverse 1854 PA used in any other year, so the timeframe in which this second proof restrike was created is undetermined. We only know that it came after OC-P2. As noted above original 1854 proofs are extremely rare. We currently estimate them as R8. This is consistent with all other years from 1850 through 1853, and explains the necessity for creating restrikes to satisfy collector demand.
Restrikes were minted in late 1859 or early 1860. They mated the same obverse die used for all 1858 dollars to Reverse 1859 PA, the die previously used to strike all 1859 proofs. They were apparently minted at the same time as the 1851, 1852, and 1854 restrikes. The restrikes are much rarer than the original issues. We also believe that some of the OC-P1 mintage may represent restrikes. There are at least two slightly different die states for this marriage. It’s very possible that the later die states may be restrikes. There’s no way to tell for certain.
In summary, restrikes exist for 1851 (3 issues), 1852 (3 issues, one unconfirmed), 1854 (2 issues), and 1858. The 1853 proof issue is inconclusive, possibly a restrike, but also possibly original. All the restrikes are unique die marriages, and thus easily identified. Diagnostics that allow identification are documented in the sections that describe the die marriages for each year. Also note that most scholars believe that the 1866 no motto pieces were not created in 1866. However, they don’t qualify as restrikes since no originals were minted.
Copyright © 2015, by Dick Osburn and Brian Cushing, All rights reserved.