The upcoming Long Beach Expo Signature Auction from Heritage Auctions, scheduled for October 6-10, features a magnificent Premium Gem Proof 1831 quarter, a piece acquired by a European nobleman during his travels in this country in the mid-19th century.
Much like the coins in the famous Lord St. Oswald Collection, this piece was preserved by the nobleman’s family down to recent times. Delicate shades of cerulean-blue and greenish-gold toning blanket the pristine surfaces of this delightful specimen. The design elements are sharply detailed in most areas, but some stars on the left have incomplete centrils. The fields are deeply reflective, but the toning reduces what would otherwise be bold cameo contrast with the frosty design elements. A long reverse die crack extends from the lower leaves through the eagle’s wing and the letters of UNITED STATES. Eye appeal is terrific.
The innovative close collar technology was introduced on the quarter denomination in 1831, resulting in coins with beaded borders and reduced diameter. Because there was no change in weight or composition, the new coins used thicker planchets to compensate for the smaller diameter. This caused some problems with striking quality. Chief Engraver William Kneass adjusted the design in many small ways in order to achieve the best-possible strike, including removing the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM from the reverse. Four obverse and five reverse dies were combined to strike the seven known die varieties of the date. Six varieties were classified as B-1 through B-6 by Ard Browning in his early series reference and the rare B-7 variety was discovered by later researchers.
Exactly which dies were used for Proof coinage is in some dispute.
Walter Breen listed coins of the B-1, B-2, B-4, and B-5 varieties, which he believed were Proof examples in his Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins. David Akers challenged Breen’s attribution of the four proof varieties in his description of the 1831 proof quarter in lot 1286 of the Pittman catalog, where he stated:
“Although others feel differently, it is my opinion that the only true Proofs of this date are this B-5 variety. Highly prooflike examples exist of other varieties, mostly B-2, and some of these pieces have incorrectly been called Proofs in the past, but they are very different in appearance from the specimens of this variety which have unquestioned Proof status.”
Akers provided a roster of the seven B-5 Proof quarters he was aware of. Since the time of the Pittman sale, third-party grading services have certified a few specimens of the B-4 variety as Proofs, as well as the B-5 coins Akers considered true Proofs, seeming to confirm Breen’s assertion in part. We believe the present coin is the first example of a B-1 1831 Proof quarter to be certified by either of the leading grading services.