The Survival Estimate represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in three categories: 1) all grades, 2) 60 or better, and 3) 65 or better. These estimates are based on a variety of sources, including population reports, auction appearances, and personal knowledge. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Numismatic Rarity converts the Survival Estimate for a particular coin into a number from 1 to 10 (with decimal increments) based on the PCGS Rarity Scale. The higher the number, the more rare the coin.
Relative Rarity By Type
Relative Rarity By Type ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Type. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
Relative Rarity By Series
Relative Rarity By Series ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Series. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
David Akers (1975/88):
The 1856-O is the second in a trio of rare, low mintage Half Eagles struck at New Orleans in the Mid-1850's. It has the lowest mintage of the three and is also possibly the rarest. Choice specimens are all but unknown and on the rare occasions this coin is available, it is invariably only VF or EF. I have seen relatively few of this date in any grade and none that would grade a full AU. Like the other two rare O Mint issues of this period, and the more common 1854-O as well, the 1856-O is generally quite well struck.
The 1856-O is tied with the 1892-O for the lowest mintage figure of any New Orleans half eagle. This date is comparable in overall rarity to the 1855-O and it is very similar in overall and high grade rarity to the 1857-O.
The 1856-O half eagle is scarce in all grades. When available, it generally grades VF to EF. Properly graded AU50 to AU53 examples are very scarce and AU55 to AU58 coins are very rare. There are only five or six known in Uncirculated with none of these grading higher than MS62.
STRIKE: This is a better struck issue than either the 1855-O or the 1857-O. The obverse has a sharp center with little weakness noted on the curls around the face. The stars are sometimes flat with the ones on the left (especially the first through the third) less sharp than the ones on the right. The reverse is usually sharp with the exception of the eagle’s neck feathers which may be weak. I have seen some 1856-O half eagles that displayed weakness on the top of the eagle’s head and on the mintmark.
SURFACES: Almost every known 1856-O half eagle is very heavily abraded and most are so heavily marked as to have their eye appeal adversely affected. I have seen a few examples that had mint-made reddish spots on the surfaces.
LUSTER: The luster is frosty in texture. A few of the higher grade pieces known have some vestiges of prooflike flash in the protected areas. Many are worn to the point that they retain little, if any, natural mint luster.
CLORATION: The natural coloration for this issue is a medium to deep green-gold. It is very hard to find an example with natural coloration intact as most have been cleaned or dipped at one time.
EYE APPEAL: This issue generally has below average eye appeal. The strike is not bad but most are very scruffy in appearance and have been cleaned. In addition, the typical example shows a good deal of heavy commercial use. Any 1856-O half eagle with good eye appeal is extremely scarce.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There is a small raised die dot below the B in LIBERTY. This may not be visible on lower grade examples.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There are two varieties known:
Variety One: The date is normal. The reverse is the same as on the 1855-O half eagle.
This variety appears to be the more common of the two.
Variety Two: The peak of the 1 in the date shows recutting. The reverse is the same as on the 1855-O half eagle. Usually seen with the first two or three stars flatly struck.
This variety appears to be the scarcer of the two.
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