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1843-O Liberty Seated Quarters and the Eliasberg-Gardner Coin

Greg Reynolds' 1843 New Orleans Quarter Dollar

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #372

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..
Only one currently identified 1843-‘Large O’ quarter is clearly uncirculated, the Eliasberg-Gardner coin. This PCGS-graded “MS-63+” 1843-O just sold for $16,450 USD in a Heritage auction at the Winter 2017 Long Beach Expo. In the same auction, a circulated, PCGS-graded VF-20 1843-‘Large O’ quarter sold for $1,233.75.

The 1843-O is of the sixth design type of classic silver quarters (most U.S. quarters minted after 1964 do not contain any silver):

  • 1) Draped Bust, Small Eagle (1796 only);
  • 2) Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle (1804-07);
  • 3) Reich Capped Bust, “Large” (1815-28);
  • 4) Kneass Capped Bust, “Small” (1831-38);
  • 5) Liberty Seated, No Drapery, No Motto (1838-40);
  • 6) Liberty Seated, With Drapery, No Motto (1840-53 and 1856-65);
  • 7) Liberty Seated, Arrows & Rays (1853 only);
  • 8) Liberty Seated, Arrows, No Motto, No Rays (1854-55);
  • 9) Liberty Seated, With Motto (1866-73 and 1875-91);
  • 10) Liberty Seated, Arrows, Motto (1873-74);
  • 11) Barber (1892-1916);
  • 12) Standing Liberty, Open Chest (1916-17);
  • 13) Standing Liberty, Covered Chest (1917-30);
  • 14) Washington (1932-on)

Lower-grade 1843-‘Large O’ quarters are worth considerably less than the two that were auctioned earlier this month at the Long Beach Expo. In 2012, an NGC-graded Poor-01 1843-O, apparently with a ‘Large O’, sold for $69.00. As this coin is so worn and has been notably scratched, the ‘O’ mintmark is not entirely clear.

In November 2016, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS-graded Good-04 1843-‘Large O’ quarter for $329. The ‘Large O’ variety of that piece was “not noted” on the label (‘insert’) inside the PCGS holder. In regard to the two already mentioned 1843-O quarters that were just auctioned in Long Beach, California, the ‘Large O’ variety is explicitly noted on the respective label inside each PCGS holder.

An ‘O’ mintmark indicates that a coin was made at the U.S. Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana. From 1793 to 1837, all U.S. federal coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. The New Orleans Mint was founded in 1838. The other branch mints are beside the theme of this discussion.

For 1843-O quarters, there are two notably distinct mintmark sizes. Regarding NGC-certified 1843-O quarters, I have never seen a label (‘insert’) inside a holder that refers to the size of the mintmark. Of most PCGS-certified 1843-O quarters, the size of the mintmark is not noted on the respective label either.

The PCGS code number 5405 refers to all 1843-O quarters, regardless of the size of the mintmark. At some point over the last 15 years, however, PCGS started labeling the ‘Large O’ variety on the holders of some, not all, 1843-‘Large O’ quarters that were submitted to PCGS.

The 1843-O Large O and Small O quarter reverses

Collectors have been distinguishing 1843-‘Large O’ quarters from 1843-‘Small O’ quarters for some time. Because many Liberty Seated quarters are rare overall and the series lasted for more than 50 years, it is extremely unusual for anyone to collect Liberty Seated quarters by die pairing. Indeed, in the more than 25 years that I have been taking notes about Liberty Seated quarters, I have heard of maybe two people doing so.

“I don’t think anyone, except Larry Briggs, has seriously attempted the entire die marriage set of quarters. Most LSCC members are date and mintmark collectors, plus major varieties,” Len Augsburger declares. He reveals that he has been “collecting Liberty Seated quarters for 25 years.” An influential collector and respected author, Len was recently appointed project coordinator of the Newman Numismatic Portal.

Certainly, there are quite a few people who collect Liberty Seated quarters ‘by date’. Ever since I was a kid, the words ‘by date’ have meant collecting by ‘year and mint location’ plus some major varieties that are readily apparent without magnification. For example, a set of Buffalo nickels ‘by date’ would include four coins from the year 1918: 1918/7-D, 1918, 1918-D and 1918-S. Before 1942, Philadelphia Mint coins never had mintmarks.

So, does a set of Liberty Seated quarters ‘by date’ require both an 1843-‘Large O’ and an 1843-‘Small O’? It does not seem so, but there is not a definitive answer to this question.

“The 1843-O Large-O is one of the important varieties in the series, as it can be eye-balled without a glass. Some price guides now list it,” along with dates, Len Augsburger emphasizes, in response to my inquiry. Although the PCGS Registry Set for Liberty Seated quarters “with major varieties” does not require an 1843-‘Large O,’ Augsburger maintains that “it should be included” in this set. The top ranked set in this ‘major varieties’ category is owned by Augsburger.

There is also a PCGS Registry Set category, “Liberty Seated Quarters Complete Variety Set, Circulation Strikes,” which sounds like it includes all varieties. It does not, however, list all die pairings. This registry set is limited to listings for varieties that are somewhat well known or have been recognized at PCGS. For most year and mint location combinations, only one variety is listed.

For 1843-O quarters, however, three coins are needed for a “complete variety set” in this Liberty Seated quarter “Complete Variety” category: 1843-‘Small O’ (though not explicitly identified as “Small”), 1843-O with a repunched date, and 1843-‘Large O’! There are four collections entered in this registry set category, though the fourth is only “1.42% complete”.

The 1843-‘Large O’ is much rarer than the 1843-‘Small O’, which is sometimes called the 1843-‘Medium O’ or the 1843-‘Normal O’! Many past auction and fixed price listings of 1843-O quarters, however, do not specify or provide a clue as to the size of the mintmark.

The 1843-‘Large O’ commands a substantial premium. In circulated grades, which are grades below MS-60, an 1843-‘Large O’ quarter is worth multiples of the value of an 1843-‘Small O’ of equal quality.

In November 2016, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned both ‘Large O’ and ‘Small O’ circulated quarters. An 1843-‘Large O’ was PCGS-graded Fine-12 and was in a holder that is less than six years old. The mintmark variety is not mentioned on the PCGS label, though the ‘O’ is clearly large. This coin realized $616.88.

In an Internet-only session of the same event in November 2016, Stack’s-Bowers sold a PCGS-graded Fine-15 1843-‘Small O’ quarter for $152.75. The PCGS holder of this coin was of the same generation as the just mentioned 1843-‘Large O’ that was PCGS-graded Fine-12. Although these two coins are not precisely equal in quality or eye appeal, the 4:1 ratio in prices realized for coins by the same auction firm during the same week is somewhat illustrative of the market premium for the ‘Large O’ variety.

In this same Internet-only session by Stack’s-Bowers in November 2016, a PCGS-graded Fair-02 1843-‘Large O’ went for $129.25, though this coin’s mintmark was not revealed as being a ‘Large O’ in the online catalogue description or on the holder’s label. An 1843-‘Small O’ quarter of the same quality would not be worth enough to justify a grading fee. Maybe, a Fair-02 grade 1843-‘Small O’ would retail for $15 to $20?

Gene Gardner generally sought high grade coins for his collection. Gene had two 1843-‘Large O’ quarters and one 1843-‘Small O’, which was NGC-graded as MS-64. The Gardner ‘Small O’ piece brought $7,050 in May 2015. This same 1843-‘Small O’ was auctioned by Heritage in June 1999 for $8,050.

The Gardner 1843-‘Small O’ resided in the same NGC holder from 1999 or earlier to May 2015 or later. Before March 2016, however, this same coin ‘crossed into’ a PCGS holder with the same assigned grade of “MS-64.” The Gardner 1843-‘Small O’ was PCGS-graded when Heritage auctioned it for $5,405 early in March 2016. A curious fact is that this same coin brought $7,050 in a NGC holder and much less, $5,405, less than 11 months later in a PCGS holder with the same certified grade.

Yes, market levels began slipping since around August 2015. Even so, this $5,405 result in March 2016 represents a 23% decrease and the $7,050 result in May 2015 was not then strong.

The PCGS-graded MS-63 1843-O that Heritage sold in November 2014 is also of the ‘Small O’ variety. It then brought $7,343.75. This PCGS-graded MS-63 1843-‘Small O’ quarter is or was in a holder that dates from the 2000 to 2002 period.

The other Gardner 1843-‘Large O’ was PCGS-graded as EF-45 and CAC-approved. In the Gardner IV sale on October 28, 2015, this coin realized $3,290, a strong price.

Lower grade 1843-‘Small O’ quarters are not nearly as expensive. Most experts figure that only one 1843-O quarter is required for a set ‘by date’. For example, in the already referenced ‘Internet-only’ session of a Stack’s-Bowers event in November 2016, a PCGS-graded VG-10 1843-‘Small O’ brought $70.

Eugene Gardner Specimen 1843-O quarter dollar

The Eliasberg-Gardner 1843-‘Large O’

Is the Eliasberg-Gardner coin the only uncirculated 1843-‘Large O’ quarter?

PCGS reports eight 1843-O quarters, regardless of variety, as having received ‘mint state’ grades, and NGC reports seven. The combined total of 15 probably represents just nine to 12 different coins, and it might be debatable as to whether all of these are truly uncirculated. Moreover, is it true that only one of the group, the Eliasberg-Gardner piece, is of the ‘Large O’ variety? I am not certain.

Also, could there be uncirculated 1843-O quarters that have been undergraded as AU-58 or have never been submitted to PCGS or NGC?

At the moment, it seems that this coin is the finest known of the ‘Large O’ variety and is one of the four finest-known of all 1843-O quarters. This Eliasberg-Gardner piece is the only ‘MS’ grade 1843-‘Large O’ or ‘Small O’ that is listed in the CAC population report, which lists just one 1843-O quarter at the AU-58 level and zero as AU-55!

Len Augsburger reveals that he owns a PCGS-graded AU-55 1843-‘Large O’ quarter that has never been sent to CAC. Len acquired his coin in 2003. CAC was founded in 2007.

The lone CAC-approved AU-53 1843-O quarter is PCGS-graded and is in the “The Iowa Collection” set in the PCGS Registry. It is there reported that it was acquired on July 6, 2015.

In the Gardner III sale on May 12, 2015, there were two 1843-O quarters, the Eliasberg 1843-‘Large O’ and an unnamed 1843-‘Small O’. Both coins were then in NGC holders with “MS-64” grade assignments.

Late coin collector Eugene Gardner

The Eliasberg-Gardner 1843-‘Large O’ did not then have a CAC sticker, though all or just about all of Gardner’s coins were sent to CAC. Before July 2016, it was graded “MS-63+” at PCGS and then received CAC approval.

This same Eliasberg-Gardner quarter was offered by Stack’s-Bowers in August 2016 at the ANA Convention in Anaheim. Bidding then did not reach the reserve of $13,000, which would amount to $15,275 with the standard 17.5% adjustment.

This coin was catalogued as “MS-65” before it was auctioned in April 1997. Eliasberg had both 1843-‘Small O’ and 1843-‘Large O’ varieties. All or almost all of Eliasberg’s quarters were auctioned in April 1997 in New York by Bowers & Merena. None of Eliasberg’s coins in 1982, 1996 and 1997 sales were certified before they were auctioned.

In 1997, this 1843-‘Large O’ brought $14,300. Before January 2013, it was NGC-certified as MS-64. It may be true that Gene Gardner bid in person at the January 2013 FUN Auction, as he attended many FUN Convention auctions. The Eliasberg 1843-‘Large O’ then realized $25,850. As already mentioned, this same coin brought $19,975 on May 12, 2015, and did not realize as much as $15,275 in August 2016.

Frequent offerings of the same coin tend to dampen enthusiasm for it. A coin becomes fresh if it is not publicly or otherwise very apparently offered in the mainstream of the coin community for more than five years. Before 1996, Eliasberg’s coins had been ‘off the market’ for decades.

Like many other Eliasberg silver coins, this 1843-‘Large O’ quarter has brown-russet and tan natural toning with underlying original luster. There are not many contact marks. It is understandable that experts at NGC-graded this coin as MS-64.

Some stuff in the right obverse field, between Miss Liberty and the stars, kept me from assigning a grade in the middle of the MS-64 range to this coin. Experts who examined this coin raw may have inspected this stuff under high magnification, and found it to be inconsequential. In terms of eye appeal, however, minor inconsistencies affect the grade of a coin. Referring to the Eliasberg-Gardner 1843-‘Large O’ quarter as grading in the high end of the MS-63 range (as PCGS recently did) or as grading in the low end of the MS-64 range would be fair. Indeed, the Eliasberg-Gardner 1843-‘Large O’ quarter is a really neat coin.

During some point between 2005 and 2007, the coin was worth significantly more than its current value, perhaps then having a retail value of more than $30,000. From August 2008 to April 2009, and during 2015 and 2016, values for Liberty Seated coins fell more than values decreased for classic U.S. coins in many other series.

Another variable is the premium for the ‘Large O’ over the ‘Small O’! For all 1843-O quarters, I estimate that around 420 survive. Probably fewer than 85 of these are of the ‘Large O’ variety.

For coins of roughly equivalent quality, 1892-‘Micro O’ Barber half dollars tend to sell for more than 10 times as much as regular 1892-O Barber half dollars. There has been much debate among Barber dime enthusiasts as to whether both a 1905-‘Normal O’ and a 1905-‘Micro O’ are needed for sets. The 1905-‘Micro O’ often commands a tremendous premium.

Somehow, however, the 1843-‘Large O’ quarter captures my attention to a greater extent than ‘Micro O’ Barber coins.

There are mintmark varieties of 1890-S Liberty Seated dimes, including a so-called ‘Small S’. The difference seems minor, and the 1890-‘Small S’ variety is rarely discussed. The 1891-‘O over horizontal O’ variety must be much scarcer than other 1891-O dimes in total. This variety, however, is not nearly as noticeable as an 1843-‘Large O’ quarter.

The status of a variety is partly determined by how readily apparent it is without magnification, to beginning- or intermediate-level collectors. Tradition and current popularity are factors as well. Moreover, varieties that relate to numerals in the year tend to be of greater interest than varieties relating to mintmarks. All other factors being equal, obverse varieties tend to have more status than reverse varieties. The 1892-‘Micro O’ half is an exception.

It is also true that 1843-O quarters in general have been overshadowed by 1842-O ‘Small Date’ and 1849-O quarters, which are famous rarities. The 1852-O, too, is rarer than the 1843-O overall. The 1854-‘Huge O’ is more famous, too. Further research, however, may reveal that 1843-‘Large O’ quarters are even rarer than most collectors realize. These could command more attention in the future.

© 2017 Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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