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HomeUS CoinsCapped Head Bust Left Quarter Eagle, Reduced Diameter (1829-1834)

Capped Head Bust Left Quarter Eagle, Reduced Diameter (1829-1834)

1824 Capped Head Left Quarter Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1824 Capped Head Left Quarter Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

Though the quarter eagle was an authorized gold coin denomination, few were produced by the United States Mint in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Mintage levels remained fairly constant for the Capped Head Left, Reduced Diameter type produced from 1829 through 1834, but the highest number of coins produced never exceeded 4,600 pieces in any of the six years of the design.

During this time, few gold coins of any denomination circulated, and those that did were traded at a premium as the gold content of the coins was worth more than face value.

Gold $10 eagle production was suspended in 1804 because Congress was concerned about depleting the nation’s gold coinage. The $10 denomination was primarily exported to pay for foreign goods. By eliminating the eagle, Congress thrust the half eagle gold coin into the same role.

After Chief Engraver Robert Scot’s passing in 1823, the U.S. Mint hired local engraver William Kneass. Kneass had experience engraving bank plates before coming to the Mint and was charged with improving existing coin designs. Kneass’s changes to the Capped Head Quarter Eagle design were subtle and included reducing the size of the letters, stars, and date punches. The personification of Liberty on the obverse and the eagle on the reverse saw slight modifications but were mostly faithful to Scot’s design.

The most significant change was technical rather than artistic, and that was the introduction of the collar die in 1828. No quarter eagles were produced in 1828, so the new collar die technology was first deployed on the 1829 issue.

This third die not only added reeding to the edge of the planchet (previously a separate step) but also ensured uniformity of coin diameter by restricting the outward movement of the metal during striking. An additional benefit of the closed-collar die was having a higher rim on the finished coins, which protected the surface text and designs.

Though the final year (1834) mintage of the Capped Head Quarter Eagle was not significantly lower than that of previous years, few of that date have survived. The cost of gold once again enticed speculators to melt down the coins for profit.

To stop this melting, Congress reduced the weight of the quarter eagle in 1834 so that the bullion value would once again be less than face value. Of the 4,000 1834-dated heavier-weight pieces coined early that year, most remained at the Mint and were melted after the new law became effective. Mint records are silent on whether any business strike 1834 Quarter Eagles were released for circulation, and some believe that all survivors are Proofs.

How Much Are Capped Head Bust Left, Reduced Diameter Quarter Eagles Worth?

All business strike Capped Head Left (or Capped Bust Left) Reduced Diameter Quarter Eagles are scarce to rare; census/population totals for any one year never exceed 150 coins, and those totals likely include resubmissions. Prooflike coins have been certified for half of the dates.

All issues are expensive in all conditions and are very expensive to extremely costly as Select Uncirculated (MS62) and finer. The classic 1834 rarity is more than twice as expensive as all other dates in grades through Select Uncirculated, the finest grade known; however, Gem and finer coins of the other dates list at higher prices. All Proofs are rare, with no more than 10 examples known for any date, and all are very expensive to extremely expensive. Some Cameo examples have been certified.

Extended Coverage on CoinWeek

CAC Grading President and CoinWeek contributor Ron Drzewucki, formerly of Modern Coin Wholesale, offers an irreverent overview of the quarter eagle denomination–including the Reduced Diameter type–for beginners.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse displays a somewhat mature and stout bust of Liberty facing left, head covered with a mobcap (an early 19th-century woman’s headdress), under which curls of long hair drape over the forehead, around the ear, and down the back of the neck. The cap displays the inscription LIBERTY along a ribbon banner at the cap’s base. Thirteen six-pointed stars encircle the portrait inside a denticulated or beaded border, which itself is inside a raised rim, the star ring broken by an opening for the date at the bottom.

Reverse:

The center of the reverse displays a left-facing eagle, wings outstretched nearly to the denticles, the bulk of its body covered by a Union shield, an olive branch in the right claw (left to the observer), and three arrows in the left claw. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles inside the rim, separated into three parts by the eagle’s wing tips, and the denomination of 2 1/2 D. (the fractional separator horizontal) is at the bottom. Above the eagle is a concentric banner below the words STATES OF, folded back at the ends, that displays the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. No mintmark appears on the coin; all were produced at Philadelphia.

Varieties

Because of the low mintages, only one obverse die for each year and two reverse dies for all years are known to have been used. Other than date changes, no varieties are known; a previously reported 1834 variety is now doubted.

Coin Specifications

Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle, Reduced Diameter
Years Of Issue: 1829-34
Mintage (Business Strike): High: 4,540 (1830); Low: 3,403 (1829)
Mintage (Proof): High: 15 (1834); Low: 5 (1829 and 1830)
Alloy: 91.67% gold, 8.33% copper
Weight: ±4.37 g
Diameter: ±18.20 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: William Kneass, based on previous designs by Robert Scot and John Reich; some modifications may have been the work of Christian Gobrecht.
REV Designer: William Kneass, based on previous designs by Robert Scot and John Reich; some modifications may have been the work of Christian Gobrecht.

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Dannreuther, John and Harry W. Bass, Jr. Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties. A Study of Die States, 1795-1834. Whitman Publishing.

Garrett, Jeff and Ron Guth. Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, 1795-1933. Whitman Publishing.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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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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