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

1856-O $2.50 (Regular Strike)

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18.00 millimeters
Christian Gobrecht
4.18 grams
Metal Content:
90% Gold, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$43,125 • PCGS MS62 • 7-12-2012 • Heritage Auctions
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Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 125 R-7.7 48 / 147 TIE 48 / 147 TIE
60 or Better 6 R-9.7 27 / 147 TIE 27 / 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 MS62 PCGS grade
1 MS62 PCGS grade  
3 MS61 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS62 PCGS grade
1 MS62 PCGS grade  
3 MS61 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
4 AU58 PCGS grade  
David Akers (1975/88): Like the 1856-C, the 1856-O is definitely a "sleeper". It is uncommon in any condition and really very rare in full mint state. Most specimens are relatively sharply struck.
Doug Winter: The 1856-O is the scarcest New Orleans quarter eagle produced in the 1850s. It is extremely hard to find in high grades and it is an issue that has not been given its due by non-specialists.

The 1856-O quarter eagle is most often seen in Extremely Fine grades. It is scarce in the lower range of About Uncirculated and quite scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58. It is a very rare issue in Uncirculated and I have personally seen just two or three pieces that I felt were truly Mint State.

STRIKE: Some examples are well detailed with Liberty’s hair sharply impressed with the exception of the curls around the face and behind the ear. Others are noticeably weak at the centers and are very flat on the curl behind the ear. The reverse is always better struck with the feathers sharp, except those on the eagle’s right leg. Most 1856-O quarter eagles are weak on the base of the date and the final two or three stars. The collector should be able to locate a well struck coin without great effort.

SURFACES: This is an issue that is often seen with mint-made and numismatically-induced problems. The surfaces are somewhat rough on a number of examples and I have seen many with scratches or digs in the fields. There are also quite a few that have been heavily cleaned and will not be encapsulated by reputable third-party grading services. The finicky collector will find this to be a very challenging issue to locate with nice surfaces.

LUSTER: The 1856-O has luster that is not as rich or frosty as that seen on the 1854-O or 1857-O quarter eagles. The texture is typically drab and grainy; a feature that is made worse by the fact that so many examples have been cleaned and/or dipped. I have only seen a handful of higher grade pieces with above-average frosty luster and these are considered very desirable by knowledgeable specialists.

COLORATION: The natural coloration ranges from medium green-gold to a vibrant yellow-gold. This date is very rare with original uncleaned surfaces as most have been cleaned and overdipped. High grade pieces with natural color are among the rarest New Orleans quarter eagles.

EYE APPEAL: The level of eye appeal is below average. This is due to weakness of strike, surface problems, impaired luster and a blatant lack of originality. Any 1856-O quarter eagle with good eye appeal that grades AU55 or above is very rare.

DIE CHARACTERISTICS: Many are seen with die rust. On the obverse this is present at the border behind the third through eighth stars. On the reverse this rust is seen around much of the lettering, especially TED in UNITED and RIC in AMERICA.

DIE VARIETIES: There are two varieties known:

Variety One: All 1856-O quarter eagles have a small date with a slanting 5. On this variety, the date is placed slightly to the left. The mintmark is fully visible with none of this letter touched by the feather. It is placed to the left of the fraction bar.

This variety is very scarce.

Variety Two: The obverse is the same as the last. The mintmark is placed over the gap between the denominator and the value. The top left portion is covered by a feather.

This variety is by far the more common of the two.