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NNP Blog

Jan 20 2022

The 1861-O “Confederate” Half Dollars

The 1861-O half dollar is an exceptionally popular issue, with pieces variously struck under Union, Louisiana, and Confederate authority. The recovery of thousands of examples from the SS Republic shipwreck, discovered in 2003, only adds to the lore of the popular issue. Randy Wiley detailed the 1861-O half dollar varieties in the November 2005 and November 2006 editions of the Gobrecht Journal, and these two issues are likely the most referenced in the entire series. Wiley’s first article outlined the emission sequence and the 15 die marriages for this issue and presented a step-by-step attribution guide. 

Wiley’s second article takes the leap from variety attribution toward the discovery of the coining authority for each variety. The 1887 Mint Director’s report indicated the number of pieces struck under each coining authority, and Wiley also had access to SS Republic data, which he analyzed to determine the overall distribution of the 1861-O issue by variety. Wiley notes that his final analysis is somewhat speculative, but in the end he identified two die marriages for the Union issues, seven for the Louisiana issues, and six for the CSA-struck pieces. 

Bill Bugert picked up the thread in 2013 in his A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume IV, New Orleans Branch Mint 1853-O WA to 1861-O. This source adds easy-to-use photographs for each die pair, with high quality images depicting the various pickup points for each variety. 

Link to the Gobrecht Journal on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/2096
Link to A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume IV, New Orleans Branch Mint 1853-O WA to 1861-O on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/529689
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