By James McCartney – Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers Galleries ……
As a type coin, the 1808 gold $2.50 quarter eagle has few peers.
Struck for only one year and then only in limited numbers, the issue has been a recognized rarity for generations and is a focal point for many numismatists. The quarter eagle denomination was never particularly popular in commercial channels, where preference was given to its bigger cousin, the half eagle. Only 2,710 quarter eagles were struck in 1808 all from one pair of dies. On the obverse, a die crack runs from the top of Liberty’s cap to the stars on the right believed to appear on almost every piece as no specimen in a perfect die state is presently known. On the reverse a small thin vertical die scratch on the left wing edge below the eagle’s beak, caused by an accidental slip of an engraving tool, provides another important diagnostic mark. With little interest from banks and merchants, production of the quarter eagle was suspended until 1821; at that time a new design was used, making the 1808 the only one of its type.
For many years, the rarity of the 1808 quarter eagle was somewhat overstated. Some numismatists claimed as few as 35 to 40 remained extant, but with the advent of the certification services and tracking, the numbers have since been modified to a more realistic 125 to 200 specimens. Even with the higher survival rate, the issue is scarce by any measure. The surviving 1808 quarter eagles are generally found at the higher circulated grade levels especially in AU, testimony to their limited use in trade. A small number of Uncirculated pieces are known in numismatic channels and are notably scarce. As a one year type coin, competition between early gold specialists, quarter eagle aficionados and type collectors has been fierce and will continue to be so.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries is pleased to offer a Mint State 1808 quarter eagle in our Rarities Night session of the Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in Baltimore. Lovely olive-gold patina adorns both sides and brightens to more of a yellow gold shade. The texture is generally of a satin nature, although there are very modest semi-reflective tendencies in the fields. The quality of strike is typical of the issue with scant denticulation around the borders and softness of detail to many of the peripheral devices, most notably the denomination 2 and the letter D in the denomination. The focal devices in the centers are sharp, however, and the overall appearance is bold.
This important rarity will be offered alongside other treasures in our March 31, 2016, Rarities Night session, held in conjunction with our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in Baltimore. The entire auction will be available online at StacksBowers.com. To consign to one of our upcoming auctions, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers Galleries can do for you.