Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar - 1859 through 1861 Type I/II Dies

by Greg Johnson


Last month we illustrated the key attribution points for the Type I and Type II dies used to strike Liberty Seated Quarters from 1859 to 1865; as well as the specific die type pairings used to strike each issue. This month we will consider the relative rarity of the 1859-1861 business strike Philadelphia quarters. The different type combinations of business strike Philadelphia quarters of 1859, 1860 and 1861 are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of Die Types Used to Make Business Strike Philadelphia Quarters (1859-61)

Obverse       Type I       Type I     Type II    Type II
      Type I       Type II    Type I      Type II
   1859            X             X                         X
   1860                                      X              X
   1861                                      X              X

These issues do not appear to be avidly collected or in great demand. Yet, they represent a very numismatically interesting and collectible subset of the seated quarters produced during a very interesting period in United States history.

It is straightforward to rank the seven issues in order of rarity:

1. 1861 Type II/II (Most Common)
2. 1859 Type I/I
3. 1860 Type II/I
4. 1860 Type II/II
5. 1859 Type I/II
6. 1859 Type II/II
7. 1861 Type II/I (Rarest)

The 1861 is one of the most common of all the seated quarters, with the huge majority of them being the Type II/II variety. The 1859 and 1860 are also common dates. The first coin on the list that might correctly be called scarce is the 1860 Type II/II, which Briggs’ notes, “…are scarcer than Type I varieties by at least a 3:1 ratio.” My personal experience over the past four years would suggest that that ratio accurately represents the 1860 quarters on the market today, with about 75% of them being the Type II/I variety. The 1993 LSCC survey reported 12 of 42 1860 quarters in member’s hands were Type II/II, rising to 15 of 36 in 2007.

The 1859 Type I/II is a scarce to very scarce coin representing a fairly small percentage of all 1859 quarters. The 1993 LSCC survey actually showed more Type II/II in collector’s hands (13) than Type I/II (7). This is very likely explained by the ease with which the Type II obverse can be identified, along with collector bias towards accumulating rare and unusual issues. The 7 Type I/II of 57 total coins reported in 1993 changed noticeably to 15 of 51 in the 2007 survey.The 1859 Type II/II and the 1861 Type II/I are truly rare coins that will be discussed in detail next month.

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