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1865 Liberty Seated Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1865 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1865 Liberty Seated Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

Although conceived as the lynchpin of the American monetary system, the silver dollar proved too cumbersome, too frequently exported, and, by the time of the American Civil War, too dear to be used domestically. The denomination was suspended in 1803 and only returned to full-scale production in 1840. Still, the one-dollar coin saw modest annual mintages in the years leading up to the war.

During the war, the United States Mint’s ability to keep coins in circulation was heavily tested. The branch mints at Charlotte and Dahlonega, which contributed little to the nation’s coinage supply, were captured by the Confederacy and never reopened. The New Orleans Mint was also seized, and federal coinage was suspended until 1879.

Only Philadelphia and San Francisco struck coins during this period. In 1865, the Philadelphia Mint struck 46,500 business strike and 500 Proof Liberty Seated Dollars – the only mint to do so. Most of these coins were struck over three days in September.

Production of 1865 Liberty Seated Dollars

March 3, 1865 3,800 struck May 31, 1865 14,000 struck
September 8, 1865 9,700 struck September 13, 1865 7,000 struck
September 27, 1865 12,000 struck Uncertain Date 500 struck (Proofs)
Total Mintage: 47,000 coins (inc. Proofs).

 

1865 Liberty Seated Dollars did not enter circulation in the United States. Instead, they were struck to be exported as trade coins so American businesses could import goods from Central and South America. As a result, nearly every coin from this issue that survives is found in circulated condition.

Uncirculated coins in any grade are scarce, and they are even rarer at MS64 or finer. PCGS and NGC report one MS65 each, and the two services combine to report just over 20 grading events at MS64, making this Civil War-era issue undervalued, in our opinion, in the top two grades.

Finding attractive, problem-free examples is difficult in the circulated grades of XF-40 to 45. Most “original” coins will exhibit dark toning and exhibit unsightly scratches. Recent sales data at these levels is slightly higher than the prices published in the 2024 edition of the Guide Book. We value this issue at about $3,000 in XF-45 with a $500 bump for coins with good eye appeal.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS65 (1, 6/2024), NGC MS65 (1, 6/2024), and CAC MS65 (1:0 stickered:graded, 6/2024).

  • NGC MS65 #1919715-005: Heritage Auctions, July 31, 2008, Lot 1754 – $57,500. Diagonal striations on the obverse. Light peach toning along the periphery. Curved hairline mark above the eagle’s head, accompanied by scattered marks in this area.
  • PCGS MS65 #21572857: (Possibly). Heritage Auctions, October 6, 1995, Lot 6057 – $11,770. Coin is not imaged on Heritage’s website. Repurchased by consignor. Imaged on PCGS CoinFacts.
  • PCGS MS64 #25596547: “The Delexa Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 11, 2024, Lot 4112 – $21,600. Well-struck. Mark that runs parallel to right arm. Two ticks to the left of the pole and cap. Cluster of light hairline scratches in the right obverse field. More significant scratches appear on the reverse above the eagle’s head. Dark spot below branch. Discoloration off of the tip of the eagle’s left wing. Thin streak across the reverse.
  • PCGS MS64 #30358624: As NGC MS64. Stack’s Bowers, March 21, 2012, Lot 4130 – $8,625. As PCGS MS64 #30358624. Stack’s Bowers, August 2015, Lot 10138 – Passed. Discoloration on the chief of the shield. Deep cut above eagle’s head. Small gouge below eagle’s left wing tip. Weakness in eagle’s leg, fletching, and branch.
  • NGC MS64: “The Johnson-Blue Collection,’ Stack’s, August 8, 2010, Lot 623 – $7,000. Brilliant. Die cracks along the top of the Legend. Die line from loop to knob of the 6.
  • NGC MS64 #1870899-002: “The Queller Family Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 17, 2008, Lot 2122 – $10,350. Well-struck example. Tiny ticks on Liberty’s right forearm. Tiny tick on Liberty’s shoulder. On the reverse, two ticks are in the field to the left of the eagle’s beak. Minor die cracks along the top of UNITED and S OF and MERICA.
  • PCGS MS64: Bill Nagle, February 2008; “The Franklinton Collection, Part II,” Stack’s, January 7, 2008, Lot 625 – $21,850. Repunched U. FS-801. Pale olive and cream color throughout. Shield and eagle detail soft at center.
  • NGC MS64 #682088-002: Heritage Auctions, April 25, 2002, Lot 4057 – $10,925; “The Diamond Collection, Part One,” Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2006, Lot 3237 – $9,200; Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2011, Lot 3988 – $8,050; Heritage Auctions, October 18, 2012, Lot 4624 – $7,931.25. Heritage describes as Prooflike. Dark smudges on the obverse at star 8 and in the right obverse field. Tony spot in the left obverse field to the right of star 3. Liberty’s chest and head are softly struck. On the reverse, the eagle’s legs, branch, and fletching are flat.

1865 Liberty Seated Dollar, FS-801

1865 Liberty Seated Dollar, FS-801. Note the repunched U. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1865 Liberty Seated Dollar, FS-801. Note the repunched U. Image: Heritage Auctions.

This variety features a repunched “U”. The doubled top serifs of the “U” are visible without magnification.

  • PCGS MS64 CAC #12701164: Bill Nagle, February 2008; “The Franklinton Collection, Part II,” Stack’s, January 7, 2008, Lot 625 – $21,850; “The Eugene H. Gardner Collection,” Heritage Auctions, June 23, 2014, Lot 30603 – $25,850. CAC added. Repunched U. FS-801. Pale olive and cream color throughout. Shield and eagle detail soft at center.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the 1865 Liberty Seated Dollar depicts Lady Liberty seated on a rock in classical flowing robes, head turned toward her right (viewer’s left). Her left arm is bent, her raised hand holding a liberty pole with a cap. The right arm is extended downward at her side with the hand balancing a shield, across which the word LIBERTY is displayed in a curving banner. Thirteen six-pointed stars surround the seated figure inside a denticulated rim with seven on the left side, one between Liberty’s head and the cap, and the remaining five along the right. The date 1865 is centered at the bottom between the base of the rock and the rim.

Reverse:

An eagle is prominently displayed inside a denticulated rim. The eagle’s wings are partially spread but folded downward at the joint as if the majestic bird had just landed or perhaps instead is preparing to fly off. An olive branch is in the dexter claw (viewer’s left) while the sinister claw clutches three arrows. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles the top two-thirds of the coin inside the rim, with the ONE DOL. denomination centered at the bottom. Most were minted at Philadelphia; branch New Orleans (O) and San Francisco (S) mintmarks are located below the eagle, above the denomination.

Edge:

The edge of the 1865 Liberty Seated Dollar is reeded.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1865
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 47,000
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 26.73 g
Diameter: 38.10 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from Titian Peale/Thomas Sully sketches.
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Business Strike

 

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References

Julian, R.W. “The Silver Dollar, 1853-1873”, Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine. August 1964. 2124-2128. Data compiled and analyzed from the National Archives.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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