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SERIES: Liberty Head $2 1/2 1840-1907
LEVEL: Year, MintMark, & Major Variety

1856-C $2.50 (Regular Strike)

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18.00 millimeters
Christian Gobrecht
4.18 grams
Metal Content:
90% Gold, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$20,700 • PCGS MS62 • 9-1-1998 • Superior Galleries
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Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 95 R-8.0 32 / 147 TIE 32 / 147 TIE
60 or Better 4 R-9.8 5 / 147 TIE 5 / 147 TIE
65 or Better 0 R-10.1 1 / 147 1 / 147
Condition Census (Explain) Show more rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS63 estimated grade  
2 MS62 PCGS grade  
2 MS62 PCGS grade  
4 MS62 estimated grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS63 estimated grade  
2 MS62 PCGS grade  
2 MS62 PCGS grade  
4 MS62 estimated grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
7 AU58 PCGS grade
7 AU58 PCGS grade  
7 AU58 PCGS grade  
7 AU58 PCGS grade  
David Akers (1975/88): This is a very underrated date, particularly in higher grades. I have never seen or heard of a strictly uncirculated piece and have only seen two or three that were even AU. Actually, I have seen fewer high grade examples of this date than I have of the more highly regarded 1855-C. This is one of the many "sleepers" in this series.
Doug Winter: While not as poorly made as the 1856-C quarter eagle, the 1856-C is still one of the worst-struck coins of any denomination from the Charlotte Mint.

The 1856-C is among the rarest Charlotte quarter eagles with good overall eye appeal. The typical example grades from Very Fine to Extremely Fine and is characterized by a lack of originality. This is a very rare coin in properly graded About Uncirculated and, with just five or six pieces known, it is extremely rare in Uncirculated.

STRIKE: The majority of 1856-C quarter eagles are poorly struck. They show very weak centers with the ERT in LIBERTY and the curls below these letters softly impressed. The top of the hair is also often quite weak, due to what appears to be a clogged die or a foreign deposit that was in the die at the time of striking. The stars are usually soft and flat as well. The reverse is somewhat better detailed with the exception of the lower neck feathers, the right leg and the claws. I have seen a small number of 1856-C quarter eagles that are, in fact, rather well struck. These coins are fairly sharp in the hair of Liberty and show weakness only on the stars at the left. Any example that shows a sharp strike is very rare and should command a strong premium among collectors.

SURFACES: Every example I have seen shows the following characteristics. There is roughness on much of the portrait which resembles some sort of micro-granularity. An area of roughness is seen at the first star and there is a crescent of granularity which runs from Liberty’s chin to the second star. Roughness is also seen outside the first four stars towards the denticles. On the reverse there is granularity around much of the eagle, especially below the left wing. A depression is seen above the eagle’s head and there is a prominent “strip” which runs from the second S in STATES down the eagle’s neck. These mint-made problems are compounded by the fact that most 1856-C quarter eagles are significantly abraded. In addition, many show significant hairlines in the fields as a result of having been cleaned.

LUSTER: There are not many 1856-C quarter eagles that have original mint luster. Those that do have original luster possess an odd, grainy texture that is reminiscent of the a matte or “saltwater” finish. This can make it difficult for the novice to determine whether an example has been cleaned or if it is original.

COLORATION: Uncleaned 1856-C quarter eagles show either a rich green-gold or more subdued medium orange-gold hue. This has become among the most difficult quarter eagles from this mint to find with natural color and original surfaces. I doubt if more than eight or nine pieces exist that would qualify as such.

EYE APPEAL: There are virtually no known examples of this issue that have good overall eye appeal. The mint-made planchet problems described above make the 1856-C quarter eagle an issue where unattractive coins are the rule.

DIE CHARACTERISTICS: The most prominent die characteristics for this issue are described above in the “Surface” section.

DIE VARIETIES: A single die variety is known. Walter Breen believed that a second was known, which used the reverse from 1852-1855. This has still not been seen by me and it is likely that it does not exist.

Variety 1 (formerly 17-J): The 1 in the date is closer to the denticles than to the bust. The 6 is a little closer to the denticles. The reverse was used in 1856, 1858 and 1860. The mintmark is large and its serif hangs from the feathers. No feather penetrates into its center and it is very close to both the 1 and the fraction bar. The fraction bar extends to the right edge of the mintmark.