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The 2012 Guide Book has this to say concerning the recorded mintage of 2,532,633 1861-O Seated Liberty half dollars: 'The 1861-O quantity includes 330,000 struck under the United States government, 1,240,000 for the State of Louisiana after it seceded from the Union, and 962,633 after Louisiana joined the Confederate States of America. As all these 1861-O coins were struck from U.S. dies, it is impossible to distinguish one from another. They should not be confused with the very rare Confederate half dollar of 1861 which has a distinctive reverse.'
Breen reports in his Complete Encyclopedia that 'no records survive about issue of the 1861-O proof half dollars, the most likely occasions for making these would have been inception of coinage for Louisiana and for the CSA. What is known, however, is that in April 1861, Confederate Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger issued orders that new designs for a Confederate half dollar be submitted to him for approval. Clearly, these 1861-O specimen half dollars owe their existence to the need to commemorate an event before the new Confederate dies were ready. (Or the reverse die, as it turned out, the Confederate half dollars reused a Union obverse die, identifiable by a die crack from rim to the bridge of the nose.) The Confederate mint closed at the end of April 1861. Examining the timeline, it is known that the first delivery of 333,000 half dollars was struck under U.S. authority. As such--since half dollars had been struck in New Orleans for decades--there would have been no need for a special commemoration of the Union striking. The specimen 1861-O halves thus clearly were intended as a commemoration of the March striking of 1,240,000 half dollars under authority of the State of Louisiana. After all, it appears that the intent, at least, was to produce custom-made dies for the Confederate strikings, once the dies were prepared and approved.
Walter Breen's Proof Encyclopedia gives a provenance of six proof or specimen examples, of which two may be duplicates, for a total of only four individual coins known.
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