SS Republic Coins Reveal Surprising Secrets of 1861 New Orleans Half Dollars
Posted on 7/1/2006
Full Set of Die Marriages to be Displayed for First Time Ever at NGC's ANA Booth
The recovery of a cache of silver Seated Liberty Half Dollars from the SS Republic has allowed for an unprecedented study of 1861 coins struck at the New Orleans mint.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, the leader in deep-ocean shipwreck exploration and the company that discovered and delicately recovered the coins, commissioned noted Seated Liberty half dollar expert, Randall E. Wiley, to carefully review the 1861-O halves remaining in the Odyssey inventory. Wiley's extensive examination has allowed, for the first time ever, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) to certify the die marriage and attribution of each coin to either the Union, State of Louisiana, or the Confederate States of America (CSA) control of the New Orleans Mint.
Thousands of coins were individually studied by Wiley and each was attributed to a specific die "marriage" or die variety. Among the SS Republic silver half dollars recovered by Odyssey Marine, Wiley found examples struck from all 14 die marriages used in production by the United States, Louisiana, and the Confederacy in 1861. Only the 15th die marriage, pairing the Federal Seated Liberty obverse with the Confederate-made CSA reverse design, was not found aboard the SS Republic. Just four specimens of the famous "CSA Reverse" half dollar are known to exist, as the coin was not put into production. The last one sold at auction brought $632,500.
Of the 15 obverse/reverse die marriages identified by Wiley, and based on the conclusions he published in the November 2005 Gobrecht Journal, a quarterly publication for collectors of the Liberty Seated coin series, only two were attributed to the federal government's control of the mint. His findings further indicated that the balance of die marriages were used by the secessionist State of Louisiana and subsequently by the Confederate States of America.
All of the 1861-O Seated halves recovered from the SS Republic still in Odyssey's inventory are scheduled to be re-certified by NGC to identify their die marriage and attribution to either the Union, the State of Louisiana, or the Confederacy. New labels will note the coin's specific die marriage and issuing government in addition to its SS Republic pedigree. A complete set of all 14 die marriages and 3 die varieties will be displayed for the first time ever at NGC's booth at the ANA World's Fair of Money® convention, August 16-19, 2006, in Denver, Colorado.
Some of the die-marriages/varieties recovered from the SS Republic were in very limited quantities, so only a small number of full sets are possible. Odyssey Marine plans to offer a handful of these sets for sale. Collectors will also have the opportunity to own a set of 1861-O half dollars attributed to all three governments. There will also be an offering of 1861-O halves struck from the same obverse die used to mint the rare and famous Confederate Half Dollar.
Collectors desiring more information about the 1861-O half dollars from the SS Republic may contact Odyssey Marine at (800) 575-6468, or by visiting Odyssey's Web site at www.shipwreck.net.