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HomeUS Coins1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

Quarter eagle production increased dramatically in the 1850s as a result of the United States Mint receiving large quantities of gold from California. This influx of bullion saw the Philadelphia Mint strike over a million $2.50 gold pieces each year from 1851 through 1853. Before these million-coin mintages were achieved, the previous high-water mark for the denomination was the 547,986 Classic Head Quarter Eagles struck in 1836.

From 1838 until the facility was seized by the Confederates, the Charlotte Mint struck quarter eagles every year but 1845, 1853, 1857, and 1859. The output of the Charlotte Mint was consistently higher than Dahlonega but trailed far behind the annual output of the Philadelphia Mint. Gold and silver bullion coinage of the period was largely driven by the needs of regional depositors – though it was clear that the gold rush was winding down shortly after the Mint opened the North Carolina and Georgia facilities. Saddled with antiquated equipment and perhaps less-than-ideal employees, Charlotte, like its North Georgia sister mint, was not known for producing coins of extraordinary technical merit. Weak strikes, blundered mintmarks, and coins with “artisanal” eye appeal were the norm.

In the 1850s, Liberty Head Quarter Eagle output at the Charlotte Mint ranged from 3,677 to 14,923 coins but typically fell in the 7,000 to 10,000 range. The 1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle, with a mintage of 9,148 coins, sits at the upper end of that range.

1850s Liberty Head Quarter Eagle Mintages
1850 Phila. 252,923 C 9,148 D 12,148 NO 84,000 S
1851 Phila. 1,372,748 C 14,923 D 11,264 NO 148,000 S
1852 Phila. 1,159,681 C 9,772 D 4,078 NO 140,000 S
1853 Phila. 1,404,668 C D 3,178 NO S
1854 Phila. 596,258 C 7,295 D 1,760 NO 153,000 S 246
1855 Phila. 235,480 C 3,677 D 1,123 NO S
1856 Phila. 384,240 C 7,913 D 874 NO 21,100 S 72,120
1857 Phila. 214,430 C D 2,364 NO 34,000 S 69,200
1858 Phila. 47,377 C 9,056 D NO S
1859 Phila. 39,364 C D 2,244 NO S 15,200

Three die pairs were sent to the Charlotte Mint to produce this issue, but the resulting coins allow for the identification of just two varieties.

Mintmark placement on the two known varieties of 1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagles. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
Mintmark placement on the two known varieties of 1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagles. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

Variety 1 shows the “C” mintmark slightly overlapping the eagle’s right talon. Variety 2 shows a mintmark punch located away from the talon and centered on the fraction bar. Both varieties show strike weakness on the eagle’s right leg.

Gold coin expert Doug Winter estimates between 175 and 225 survivors. The combined certified population at CAC, NGC, and PCGS for the date stands at 277 as of July 4, 2024. Most of these grading events fall within the XF45 to AU58 band, which informs us that the typical coin will be hurt by strike weakness and past attempts to clean or “process” the coin for sale. It’s also not a stretch to assume that some low-Mint-State coins are sliders. Take the example of the high-profile Bass coin that graded PCGS AU58 when it was offered in the landmark October 1999 Bowers and Merena sale. That coin eventually upgraded to PCGS MS62. NGC and PCGS report 24 grading events at the MS60 and MS61 levels. Those are borderline grades, normally.

With only two grading events at choice MS63 (both NGC) and just seven events at MS62 (all but one at PCGS, one of which is MS62+), the formulation of a condition census has likely already been established privately by specialist dealers like Winter. Given that the best coins will not always appear at auction, the specimens below are only part of the story.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS62+ (6, 6/2024), NGC MS63 (2, 7/2024), and CAC MS62 (1:0 stickered:graded, 7/2024).

  • NGC MS63: “The Charleston Collection,” American Numismatic Rarities, September 18, 2005, Lot 1112 – $25,300. Described as Prooflike. Variety 1. Two small ticks to the right of star 4. Two thin scratches that nearly intersect in the lower right obverse field.
  • PCGS MS62+ #31695171: Paul Dingler; As NGC MS62 #1784513-004. “The Grand Lake Collection,” Heritage Auctions, February 2009, Lot 2504 – $14,950. Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2012, Lot 4758 – $15,549.15. DINGLER on insert. As PCGS MS62+ #31695171. Goldberg Auctioneers, June 2014, Lot 80 – $15,863; “The Utah Collection of Charlotte Gold Coinage,” Heritage Auctions, July 13, 2021, Lot 3079 – $28,800. Upgraded by one half point when crossed to PCGS. Variety 1. Diagonal scratch from the corner of the lip. Small ticks to the right of the gap between stars 2 and 3. Tick below star 10. Minor disturbances in the lower right field. on the reverse, small ticks above first arrow. Small ticks above the eagle’s head. Bright gold silhouette around eagle.
  • PCGS MS62: Mal Varner, February 28, 1972; As PCGS AU58. “The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part II,” Bowers and Merena, October 1999, Lot 430. As PCGS MS62. “The Johnson-Blue Collection,”  Stack’s, August 8, 2010, Lot 928 – $20,700. Variety 2. Small streaks and ticks on the neck. Tiny ticks in the left obverse field to the right of stars 1 and 2. Disturbance in the field above and to the right of stars 12 and 13.
1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers / CoinWeek.
1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers / CoinWeek.
  • NGC MS62: Goldberg Auctioneers, September 2006, Lot 1789 – Passed. Variety 1. Small ticks on chin. Small tick to the left of the ear. Curved mark between stat 10 and 11.

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1850-C Liberty Head Quarter Eagle Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1850
Denomination: Two Dollars and Fifty Cents (USD)
Mintmark: C (Charlotte)
Mintage: 9,148
Alloy: .900 Gold, .100 Copper
Weight: 4.18 g
Diameter: 18.00 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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