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1860-O Seated Liberty Dollar

With a total mintage of 515,000, the 1860-O Seated Liberty dollars are 90% silver and 10% copper. Seated Liberty dollars from 1840 to 1866 did not include the “In God We Trust” motto, which was added back mid-1866. (Images courtesy of USACoinBook.com)

The 1860-O Seated Liberty dollar is a fascinating coin.  It is also the least expensive Mint State Seated Liberty dollar with a price of $1,825 in MS-60.  It goes to $2,800 in MS-63 and $48,000 in MS-65, but for Seated Liberty dollars those are very low prices with only a couple other dates even coming close.

Right away, there must be questions as the 1860-O is from the New Orleans facility and New Orleans was famous, or maybe infamous, as a facility where we have poor supplies for Mint State coins, especially for the period of 1860 and before.  The 1860-O is the glaring exception.  The 1860-O dime is admittedly a low mintage date, but it is almost unknown in Mint State.  Yet the 1860-O dollar, based on the prices, is seemingly common.

There has to be a reason and there is.  Back in 1860 what silver dollar production there was had basically become production simply for export.  Realistically, Seated Liberty dollars had never circulated in any numbers anyway, but in 1860 if you got a dollar coin in change it was a gold dollar and not a silver Seated Liberty dollar.  In fact, the change in the amounts of silver in the silver coins in 1853 basically sealed the deal as all silver denominations had the amount of silver reduced with the exception of the dollar.  After 1853 when silver dollars were made, the purpose was to ship them out of the country.

At first, it really did not matter because New Orleans did not make silver dollars anywhere.  There had been a small 40,000 mintage in 1850 and a 59,000 mintage in 1846 but otherwise prior to 1853 New Orleans had not made any other silver dollars and that did not change after 1853.

Then a strange thing happened.  In 1859, New Orleans produced 360,000 silver dollars.  That was not just a record for New Orleans silver dollars, it was a record Seated Liberty dollar total.  Then, in 1860, another remarkable thing happened and that was that New Orleans produced 515,000 examples of the 1860-O.  In the prior 18 years New Orleans had produced 99,000 silver dollars and then in two years it produced 875,000.  Clearly there was something unusual going on.

We cannot honestly be sure what was going on at the time but even with larger mintages, the assumption would be that the 1860-O, as well as the 1859-O, would have been shipped out of the country.

In the case of the 1860-O, and probably the 1859-O as well, it appears that at least one $1,000 bag was shipped north to Washington.  We can suggest that now because there appears to have been possibly a bag or two of Mint State examples of the 1860-O and perhaps one of the 1859-O in the Treasury vaults.

There have been rumors over the years of such bags.  The 1871 and 1872 were also mentioned, but the grading services have given us a chance to truly test the availability of Seated dollar supplies in Mint State.  While the grading services have not seen every possible Mint State Seated Liberty dollar and have seen some more than once, their totals do give us some indication as to whether certain dates have the numbers available today to at least suggest that there might once have been a bag or other large hoard.

What we learn is that the date most likely to have been found by the bag is the 1860-O as it has been seen in Mint State 823 times by PCGS and 492 times by NGC.  The 1859-O posts Mint State totals of 496 times at PCGS and 314 times by NGC while the higher mintage 1871 is at 205 times at PCGS and 163 times at NGC with the 1872 trailing at 120 times at PCGS and 95 times at NGC.

While the total of the 1860-O does not equal a full $1,000 bag, it should be noted that there are additional numbers in AU grades.  Moreover, the coins in the rumored bags were in some cases reported being heavily bag marked so it is possible that some were not submitted, while others might have received an AU designation.

An added interesting factor is that to have survived, any 1860-O and 1859-O would have had to have been shipped quickly to Washington as when New Orleans was seized by the state of Louisiana forces in early 1861 had there been any silver dollars they would have been used and not saved.

This all makes the 1860-O an available date and a date with a fascinating and unique story which is a good combination for a collector of limited funds who wants an interesting coin.

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