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1856 Flying Eagle Cent

 Obverse of 1856 Flying Eagle Cent      Reverse of 1856 Flying Eagle Cent


PCGS Nos: 2013, 2037


Circulation strikes: estimated 750
Proofs: estimated 1,500

Designer: James Barton Longacre (using Christian Gobrecht's eagle design)

Diameter: ±19 millimeters

Metal content:
Copper - ±88%
Nickel - ±12% 

Weight: ±72 grains (±4.7 grams)

Edge: Plain

Mintmark: None (all examples of this date and type were struck at Philadelphia)

Following research in the National Archives, Walter Breen published the following distribution of 1856 Flying Eagle Cents:

264 (or more) to Congressmen
200 to Representative S.D. Campbell
102 to Secretary of the Treasury James Guthrie
62 to Senators
4 to President Franklin Pierce
2 to the Mint Cabinet
Additional pieces were given to dignitaries and others
"Several hundred may have been held in stock in the Mint for later distribution to collectors, or to trade them for Washington medals for the Mint Cabinet"

The finest Uncirculated examples graded by PCGS are 2 MS-66's.

The finest Proof example graded by PCGS is a single PR-67.

Recent appearances:
Heritage Numismatic Auctions November 1999 Santa Clara Sale (Lot 6300)

PCGS graded Proof 65.  Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Benson Collection, Part I", February 16, 18-20, 2001, lot 1074, illustrated, where it was described as follows: "Snow-5. Die pair…This is one of the most visually stunning 1856 Flying Eagle cent that could possibly exist. A sharp early die state example that is virtually mark free. Visually, there is no question of this coin's proof status. It has an absolutely full strike and is of the highest production quality witnessed on any 1856 Flying Eagle. This example is struck from the Snow 5 die pair, which was first described in 1992 in Rick Snow's book "Flying Eagle and Indian Cents". Only 10 examples of this die pair have been seen by this author, perhaps less than 35 examples of this die pair exist in all grades.  This die pair is a marriage of Obverse 2 and Reverse D as described in Snow. It is unlisted in Breen's die list found in Chapter XV of his Proof Encyclopedia. The obverse die is distinguished by a die chip at the base of the U in UNITED, called the "Pointed U". The reverse is a commonly encountered die, which is clearly identifiable by the large raised dot under the upper left serif of the N in ONE. This is a centering dot used by the engraver to fix one end of a protractor to draw circles on the unfinished die to center the wreath. The obverse die shows die striations visible in the field in three different directions. As the coin is rotated, striations in one direction become visible and then disappear as another set of striations appears. The reverse die has similar striations. These striations are found on all coins from this die pair.  To the uninitiated, die striations may be confused with hairline scratches. However, hairline scratches are grade-limiting problems caused by aggressive brushing or wiping of the coin after it has been struck. Die striations are polishing marks on the die, which are transferred to each coin until the die wears down enough to obliterate them. They do not affect the grade.  In the past there had been some confusion on the part of the grading services as to whether coins from this die pair are actually proofs or should be called Mint State because of the presence of these die striations. The first one identified and written up in Snow was unquestionably a proof. In the years that followed several more coins of the same die pair came to light, all exceptionally nice (possibly from the same unidentified source). This writer has seen coins from this die pair graded MS-63 (2 examples), PR-64, PR-65 (the present example), and MS-66 (Superior 6/5/2000:1003, $83,375) from PCGS, and a PR-65 from NGC. Recently PCGS has made it clear that they will only grade the Snow 5 die pair as a proof.  The commonly encountered proof 1856 Flying Eagles (Snow 9 die pair) are also struck using Reverse D, although in a later die state. These have been shown to be restrikes from the 1858 - 1860 "Snowdon" restriking period. (See Longacre's Ledger, Vol. 10.2, June, 2000, "Die states of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent" By Richard Snow). The Snow 5 proofs are from the earliest die states seen from both dies. There is no way to accurately show exactly when the Snow 5 were struck, except to say that they were struck before all Snow 9 proof 1856 Flying Eagles, possibly even as early as 1857.  Here is an extremely beautiful 1856 Flying Eagle. One of the finest possible.", sold for $29,325.00

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