1861-O HALF DOLLAR
PCGS No: 6303
Circulation strikes: 2,532,633
Proofs: estimated 5
by Thomas Sully, modified by Christian Gobrecht and Robert Ball Hughes,
executed by James Barton Longacre; Reverse by Christian Gobrecht
Silver - 90%
Copper - 10%
grains (±12.4 grams)
(for New Orleans, Louisiana) below the eagle on the reverse
Images courtesy of Early
American History Auctions, Inc.
The mintage for this year
includes 330,000 examples struck by the Union and 2,202,633 examples
struck by the Confederacy (after they seized the New Orleans Mint on
February 28, 1861).
Some 1861-O Half Dollars
feature exceptional strikes and heavy, Prooflike surfaces, such that
several of these pieces have been called Proofs in the past. No
official documentation exists to support this possibility, but that is the
case with many of the so-called "Branch Mint Proofs" (Proof
coins struck at mints other than Philadelphia). That the Confederacy
was interested in (and capable of) striking Proofs is supported by the
existence of the 1861
Confederate Half Dollars (four Proofs struck at the New Orleans Mint
sometime in April 1861).
According to Breen, all
"Proofs" are of the Beistle 2-C variety.
Here's a roster of the known "Proof" 1861-O Half Dollars:
1. Unknown donor -
Massachusetts Historical Society - Stack's, March 29-31, 1973, Lot 608,
sold for $3,000.00. Present whereabouts unknown.
2. ANACS Proof-60, toned
(illustrated above). Ex -
Stack's sale of the "Anderson-Dupont" collection, Part II,
November 11-13, 1954, Lot 2168, "First we ever handled" - Larry
Briggs - offered by Jerry Peterson on eBay (#1207036100) with a closing date of January 17,
2001 and an opening bid of $12,500.00 (no reserve), unsold - Early
American History Auctions, Inc. Mail Bid Sale, June 8, 2002, Lot 1146,
illustrated, sold for $17,250.00 - Robert LeNeve collection
3. Stack's sale of the
"James A. Stack" collection, March 13-15, 1975, Lot 494, sold
for $3,400.00. Present whereabouts unknown.
4. R.E. Cox, Lot 196.
Present whereabouts unknown.
5. V.L. Arrington, circa
1956, possibly to Breen. Present whereabouts unknown.
According to a 1965 letter by Breen (see #7 below), this is not the same
specimen as the Green example or #7.
6. Colonel E.H.R Green
collection. Called "Proof" by Beistle (according to a 1965
letter by Walter Breen). Untraced -- this may be any of the examples
Possible Proof examples:
7. NGC MS-63
(illustrated below). Ex -
Superior Galleries "The New York ANA Sale 2002", August 1-3, 2002,
Lot 988, illustrated, described as follows: "1861-O. Beistle 2-C.
NGC graded Mint State 63. With Walter Breen 1965 Documentation.
Toned. [NGC #413096-004] "This piece is an 1861-O half dollar from the
Beistle 2-C dies. This is the variety from brilliantly polished dies
on a polished planchet, of which Beistle called the Colonel Green specimen a
"Proof. Besides the Green coin, the former V. L. Arrington
specimen (over 12 years ago) and the present coin, I have encountered no
other 1861-O halves with nearly the same claims to proof status. My
hesitation in calling it an actual branch mint proof stems entirely from
lack of documentation of any proof mintage in New Orleans in 1861 aside from
the four Confederate proofs. It is fully comparable to the Arrington
piece and, I believe, to the Green coin. It is identifiable by a
couple of minute signs of contact with another coin, above L in HALF.
It is superior in striking and finish to the usually seen first
strikes.", sold for $1,840.00
The finest examples graded by PCGS are
No Proof examples have been
graded by PCGS or NGC.
Brilliant Proof. Ex -
Stack's "The University of Notre Dame Sale", March 20-21, 2001,
Lot 395, plated, sold for $3,680.00
NGC AU-55. Ex - Bowers & Merena Galleries' "The Cabinet of
Lucien M. LaRiviere, Part III", May 21, 2001, Lot 1504, not
illustrated, sold for $253.00
Sources and/or recommended
"The PCGS Population Report, April 2003" by The
Professional Coin Grading Service
Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1977" by
"Walter Breen's Complete
Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen