Coin Specifications

Category: Seated Liberty Half Dollars (1839-1891)
Mint: New Orleans
Mintage: 2,532,633
Obverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.4400g
ASW: 0.3599oz
Melt Value: $6.32 (10/21/2019)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1861 O 50C MS obverse 1861 O 50C MS reverse
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Description & Analysis

A generous mintage, wartime hoarding and the discovery of an immense undersea treasure have made the 1861-O half dollar a common coin across all grades. Only at the gem Mint State level is this coin rare.

The year 1861 was a momentous one, and the New Orleans Mint found itself right at the center of the drama. Seized by the State of Louisiana shortly after it seceded from the Union, the mint was later turned over to the Confederate government based in Montgomery, Alabama (later relocated to Richmond, Virginia). Throughout this period the mint continued to strike silver half dollars and gold double eagles from existing supplies of bullion until the mint finally ceased coining operations May 14, 1861.

Numismatic research in later years determined that the number of half dollars coined under authority of the United States of America, all struck during January, was 330,000. Another 1,240,000 pieces were produced by the State of Louisiana during February and March, and some 962,633 half dollars were struck under the CSA during April. It is thus possible to collect 1861-O half dollars from all three authorities, though identification of the specific die pairs for each is challenging work requiring unworn and undamaged specimens.

A total of 15 die marriages are known for this issue, these being the products of six each obverse and reverse dies. Two marriages have been dated to the USA period, six more to the State of Louisiana and another seven to CSA authority. All 1861-O half dollars were coined with one or more collars having 140 reeds, and all display the Type 2 reverse adopted in 1858.

Aside from the many die marriages, collectible varieties for this issue are minor and limited. Of most interest is the die pairing on which a distinct crack is visible from the bridge of Liberty's nose to the border. Of the several marriages assigned to the CSA period, this is the only one that is immediately recognizable, as the same obverse die was used to coin the four half dollars bearing a distinctive reverse of unique design engraved for the CSA.

Recovery of the treasure that had been aboard the steamship Republic, which sank of the coast of Georgia in 1865, revealed many thousands of 1861-O half dollars and lesser number of earlier issues. Though most show the effects of saltwater immersion to varying degrees, the hoard has further added to the already generous supply of this date.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 6/21/2019

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1861 O 50C MS
Base $ 42.00 65.00 90.00 155 285 415 450 575 725 800 1050 1400 1950 3650 6250 18750 - - - -
$ - - - - - - - - - 3800 - - - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



Total Graded: 413
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 53
High Grade: 66

The chart showing PrAg series, G series, VG series, F series, VF series, 40 series, 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 10/8/2019 1861 O 50C MS
 2 %2 %5 %2 %11 %5 %10 %7 %6 %9 %9 %0 %6 %6 %10 %7 %2 %1 %---- 
1861 O 50C MS Prooflike
 ------------13 %25 %25 %38 %------ 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
2/5/2006 NGC MS 61   Goldberg February 5-8, 2006 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 34/Lot# 143 $661.00
11/7/2011 PCGS AU 55   Teletrade Auction 3168, 3168/Lot# 1616 $380.00
12/25/2011 NGC Details Details  GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 12/25/2011, 150/Lot# 30053 $440.00
4/28/2013 NGC   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 04/28/2013, 72/Lot# 113651 $484.00
4/1/2014 PCGS Genuine XF   Stack's Bowers March 2014 Baltimore Auction, 6008/Lot# 7770 $176.25
10/8/2014 NGC   Heritage Auctions 2014 October 8 - 13 PNG New York Invitational US Coins Signature Auction - New York Session(5), 1210/Lot# 7953 $367.78
11/2/2014 PCGS AU 58   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 828, 837/Lot# 10358 $703.00
4/22/2015 NGC   Heritage Auctions 2015 April 22 - 26 CSNS US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago Session(7), 1219/Lot# 7873 $423.00
8/10/2016 NGC PR 1   Heritage Auctions 2016 August 10 - 14 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Anaheim Session(6), 1238/Lot# 7766 $540.50

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1861 50C MS O
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 53
Points: 958
Owner: tooch
Grade: VF 30
Points: 395
Owner: 123cents
View the Registry Image Gallery

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