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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Classic Silver Quarters sold on Platinum Night

News and Analysis on scarce coins,  markets, and the  collecting community #91

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds

At the FUN Convention in Orlando, Heritage auctioned around $55 million worth of coins. In addition to a special section devoted to Dr. Duckor’s Saint Gaudens Double Eagles, lead offerings were organized in two Platinum Night sessions, gold coins on Thursday, Jan. 5 and U.S. coins of copper, nickel and silver on Wed., Jan. 4. I have already devoted columns to each of the two coins that sold for $1.38 million, the Eliasberg-Atwater-Jung 1793 Chain Cent and the Garrett-Jacobson 1829 ‘Large Date’ Half Eagle. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.) The topic here is quarters that were offered in the Jan. 4th Platinum Night session. A variety of rarities sold.

Yes, I realize that this auction will not be forever remembered as a landmark offering of quarters. Nevertheless, some of the quarters included are terrific and others are fair examples of relatively expensive quarters that are found in the marketplace. Several of the quarters that I discuss are rarities in absolute terms and almost all are condition rarities.

Quarters are extremely popular among coin collectors and learning about relatively expensive quarters often results in a greater understanding of the quarters that thousands of collectors can afford to buy. Indeed, more than 400,000 people collect U.S. quarter dollars. I trust that many are interested in reading about rarities that they will never buy and may never even have a chance to see. When I was collecting Barber Quarters, I enjoyed reading about Draped Bust and Capped Bust Quarters.

Unfortunately, I just did not have time to view and research all the important coins in an auction that totaled $55 million! I apologize for omitting Standing Liberty Quarters. Draped Bust, Capped Bust, Liberty Seated and Barber Quarters in the first Platinum Night session are covered herein.

I. 1796 Quarters

Quarters featured a Draped Bust obverse (front) design and a so-called ‘Small Eagle’ reverse (back) design in 1796 only. These are among the most famous and popular of all U.S. coins. There were three 1796 quarters in this Platinum Night session. The best of which was one of the stars of the whole auction.

It is one of only five 1796 quarters that is PCGS graded “MS-64.” Like many 1796 quarters, it is semi-prooflike, with appealing reflective surfaces. The natural, mild gray-blue toning is attractive. The devices are lighter in color than the fields and are soothing. The obverse (front of the coin) is sharply struck for a 1796 quarter.

This coin is attractive to very attractive overall and has minimal abrasions. Its grade, in my view, is in the middle to high end of the 64 range. I doubt that any experts were surprised that this coin has a sticker of approval from the CAC.

John Albanese declares that it is a “beautiful, original prooflike coin.” John is the founder and president of the CAC.

Laura Sperber was the successful bidder for this coin, which realized $253,000. Albanese finds this to be “a very strong” price. In my view, it is very strong to extremely strong.

“Given the present market, $253,000 is perfectly acceptable,” David McCarthy suggests. “This the best 1796 quarter that I have seen in two years or more,” McCarthy asserts. David is the senior associate at the Kagin’s firm.

John Brush is even less surprised by the result than is McCarthy and is even more enthusiastic about the coin than I am. “A gorgeous piece that is very high end for the grade,” declares Brush, “arguably the nicest PCGS MS-64 [1796 quarter] you would be able to find. The auction price should not be such a surprise as the coin was truly a monster,” Brush exclaims. He is vice president of David Lawrence Rare Coins.

For a “MS-64” 1796 quarter, the Numismedia.com guide value of “$143,000” may be a little low. I really expected this coin to sell for an amount between $190,000 and $215,000.

In terms of price guides, the PCGS graded “MS-63” 1796 would seem to have brought a weak price in this sale. Experts who carefully examined this coin, however, would not regard the $97,750 price as weak. It is not an impressive coin.

David McCarthy states that “the color on the coin looked unusual. This coin didn’t look desirable to me.” I also had a negative reaction to this coin’s color. I certainly did not grade it as “MS-63.” For this specific coin, the $97,750 price is very strong.

The third 1796 quarter is not gradable. There are many other non-gradable 1796 quarters that I find to be more desirable than this one. The surfaces on this coin are upsetting. It was authenticated and encapsulated by experts at the NGC who determined that it has been “repaired” and “whizzed.” Furthermore, I detected other issues. It is said to have the “details” of a “Very Fine” grade 1796 quarter. The price realized of $14,950 was moderately strong, as it is not unusual for a Very Fine “details” coin to bring a price commensurate with a Good-06 to Very Good-08 coin that is gradable.

McCarthy’s interpretation is different from my own. He finds that this not gradable 1796 quarter is “not that bad” and that “$14,950 is reasonable. [This 1796 quarter has] a lot of detail, though it clearly had some work done, [including that] the drapery was re-engraved. It is okay for what it is,” David finds. “It has the details of a VF-35 or better. There is a lot of meat and detail for under twenty grand on a 1796 quarter. We are penalizing ‘problem coins’ a lot more now than was done in the past,” McCarthy adds.

It is true that a problem-free Very Fine-35 grade 1796 quarter would have a retail value above $40,000. Someone might be very happy paying $14,950 for this one.

II. 1804 Quarters

Quarters dating from 1804 to 1807 have a Draped Bust obverse (front) along with a Heraldic Eagle reverse (back) design, which is sometimes called the ‘Large Eagle’ design. Though not nearly as famous or nearly as rare as 1804 dollars, and of a different species, 1804 quarters are rare and famous. Indeed, 1804 quarters are strongly desired by collectors.

Three 1804 quarters were offered in the first Platinum Night session. The first is NGC graded ‘Very Fine-30.’ I did not spend a lot of time viewing this coin, just a few seconds. It is probably okay. The price realized of $14,950 is fair to strong.

The second is NGC graded “AU-50.” It did not sell. A bid of around $40,000 would have been required to buy it. While in terms of price guides or past auction records, $40,000 might seem to be a low level for this coin, experts who have seen the coin might figure that this coin is not even worth $40,000. It has ‘issues,’ in my view.

The third 1804 quarter is one of the stars of this auction. The Pittman 1804 is especially famous and important. John J. Pittman formed an epic collection, which was auctioned by the firm of David Akers from 1997 to 1999. In 2012, the Pittman 1804 sold for $149,500, which John Albanese regards as a “very strong” price.

The Pittman 1804 is attractive plus and its toning is definitely natural. Furthermore, this quarter has very few contact marks. If it did not exhibit some moderate friction on the highpoints, it would grade MS-63 or MS-64.

The Pittman 1804“was one of the coins that I liked best in the sale,” McCarthy remarks. “That coin was original and charming. I was [bidding] more than $125,000 for it. I was not surprised that it brought what it brought. You just do not see coins that look like this very often,” David exclaims.

III. ‘Large’ Capped Bust Quarters

Capped Bust Quarters, with the Latin phrase ‘E. Pluribus Unum’ on the reverse, were struck from 1815 until 1828. This phrase is not easy to translate. I suggest ‘From Many Emerged One,’ and that it was a tribute to the independence, unification and growth of the United States. The first type of Capped Bust Quarters was struck from 1815 to 1828, and this type is often referred to as ‘Large Size’ or as ‘Large Diameter.’

In this Platinum Night session, there were two 1818 quarters with normal numerals. The Eliasberg 1818/5 overdate quarter was in this auction as well. It did not sell because the reserve was unreasonable. The Eliasberg 1818/5 is an excellent coin.

The first 1818, with normal numerals, is NGC graded “MS-65.” This is a coin issue for which PCGS certified and/or CAC approved coins tend to be worth considerably more than NGC graded coins without CAC stickers. Even so, I really like this specific coin.

I have seen this coin at least four times in four different years, assuming that the pedigree listing by the Heritage cataloguer is accurate. Unfortunately, I do not have immediate access to my copy of the catalogue for ANR’s auction of Oliver Jung’s type set on July 23, 2004. In any event, I do remember seeing this exact same coin in August 2011, shortly before Heritage auctioned it for $14,950 in Chicago. I liked it a lot then, too. It is a very attractive coin.

Light hairlines are present on the surfaces, though are hard to see. One short medium abrasion is not a really big deal, though it is a little annoying. All the imperfections are consistent with a 65 grade.

The toning on this NGC graded MS-65 1818 is natural and is very appealing. The gray inner fields are nicely balanced by green outer fields. Patches of orange-russet and touches of blue blend in well. If this coin was ever dipped, it was many decades ago.

At $16,100, this coin realized more than other NGC graded “MS-65” 1818 quarters in past auctions. A year ago, Heritage auctioned a different one for $15,525.

The next lot sold on Jan. 4, 2012 was a PCGS graded “MS-65“ 1818 with a CAC sticker. It brought $33,350, a very strong price.

This PCGS graded 1818 may have the surface quality of a 66 grade quarter. It is not quite very attractive and certainly does not have the eye appeal that most experts would associate with a 66 grade Capped Bust Quarter. I would hope that it does not upgrade, though my guess is that s few serious bidders were probably thinking that it might upgrade.

The greenish tones are appealing as is the underlying luster. This PCGS graded 1818 brought more than the PCGS retail guide value of $32,000 and more than relevant auction prices in the near past. It is (or was) in a pre-1990 PCGS holder and may be fresh. A coin is ‘fresh’ if it has not been publicly offered, notably in the mainstream of the coin business, for more than five years.

The 1820 quarter in this sale is noteworthy. It is PCGS graded “MS-65” and has a CAC sticker. Further, it is one of the highest certified 1820 ‘Large 0’ quarters. The zero is literally large and this variety tends to have the status of a distinct ‘date.’

This 1820 quarter did not sell. There were no bids above $37,375, so the reserve was effectively at least this high. The corresponding value in the PCGS price guide is $35,000. The NGC Coin Explorer values a “MS-65” grade 1820, with a ‘Small 0’ or a ‘Large 0,’ at $34,380. Was the reserve for this coin unreasonable?

“I really like the coin a lot,” John Albanese says. “I know it was dipped, but it was a really nice coin. The reserve just a little too high,” John adds.

Although I am a strong supporter of the CAC and I usually agree with Albanese, I feel compelled to dissent in this case. This coin has a few significant hairlines here and there, which I find to be annoying. More importantly, this coin was substantially dipped (immersed in an acidic solution) not long ago and has a very awkward appearance. While it merits a MS-65 grade in terms of the grading criteria employed by the PCGS or the NGC, I really do not like it. This 1820 may become more desirable after it naturally retones to a considerable extent.

The 1821 quarter in this auction is not fresh, though it is an appealing, naturally toned coin. I have seen it in two or three previous auctions, in recent years. While it is NGC graded “MS-67,” my guess is that experts at the PCGS would not grade it as MS-67, and I doubt that the CAC would approve it. Even so, it is a pristine gem coin and a very important ‘Large Size’ Capped Bust Quarter.

The NGC Coin Explorer and Numismedia.com value an 1821 at “$89,380” in “MS-67” grade and at “46,150” in MS-66 grade. This coin sold for $40,250 at this auction.

While $40,250 may seem to be a weak price to a collector who followed the auction from home, the result is not weak and makes sense, in my view. Despite the fact that the holder indicates a “MS-67” grade, this coin really grades “MS-66” and the auction result is in accordance with the underlying reality. If it were certified as grading “MS-66,” I would be enthusiastic about the coin and its holder.

Matt Kleinsteuber asserts that this 1821 is “a gorgeous, original type coin and a wholesome value.” Matt is the lead grader and trader for NFC coins. I agree that this coin scores extremely high in the category of originality and is an excellent value at $40,250.

IV. ‘Smaller’ Capped Bust Quarters

I prefer not to refer to the second type of Capped Bust Quarters as being ‘small.’ The diameter was just slightly reduced to approximately the diameter of currently produced quarters. From 1831 to 1838, quarters feature a noticeably different Capped Bust obverse design and a reverse design that does NOT include this Latin phrase, E. Pluribus Unum, which is sometimes called a ‘motto.’ Clearly, the quarters of 1821 to 1828 and those of 1831 to 1838 are two different design types.

The 1831 quarter in this auction is PCGS graded MS-65 and has a CAC sticker. Albanese remembers this coin. “It has been dipped. If you like bright Washington Quarters, you would like this coin, a blazer. This is a good choice for someone insisting on bright white coins,” John points out. In my opinion, it looks awkward.

It certainly brought a strong price, $25,300. This exact same coin realized $24,150 at the Heritage Platinum Night event during the Summer 2008 ANA Convention, when markets for rare U.S. coins, in general, peaked. Since 2009, there has been increased interest in rare gold coins and demand for many rare silver coins has lagged. The fact that this coin realized a higher price in 2012 than it did at the peak of a long and tremendous boom in rare coin markets is curious.

The next coin, an 1838 Capped Bust Quarter, was auctioned twice in 2006, for $13,800 and $19,500 respectively, according to Heritage cataloguers. It sold for $32,200 on Jan. 4, 2012, which is a very strong price.

Like the 1831 in this auction, the 1838 quarter is PCGS graded MS-65 and has a CAC sticker. I am much fonder of the 1838 than of the 1831. In my view, this 1838 is attractive to very attractive, is technically strong with minimal abrasions, and has pleasantly, naturally toned. Its grade is in the middle of the 65 range.

John Albanese declares that the 1838 is a “very tough date in gem. This is one of the better 1838 quarters that I have ever seen. [It is] ten times rarer than an 1831 in MS-65 and higher grades,” Albanese notes.

V. Liberty Seated Quarters

Liberty Seated Quarters were minted from 1838 to 1891. There are a few subtypes. There were six Liberty Seated Quarters in this Platinum Night session. In contrast, there were eleven Liberty Seated Dimes and more than twenty Liberty Seated Half Dollars in this auction session.

The 1843-O quarter in this session is newsworthy because it features a ‘Large O’ mintmark. The ‘O’ for New Orleans is much larger on a small percentage of 1843-O quarters. Some collectors are willing to pay a substantial premium for a large ‘O.’ In the minds of most collectors, however, the ‘Large O’ variety does not have the status of a distinct date. The 1854 ‘Huge O’ issue is much different, as the ‘Huge O’ was hand engraved rather than punched into the die. Generally, mintmarks were punched into dies.

A PCGS graded “AU-53” 1843-O with a regular ‘O’ would be worth less than $1500. This coin sold for $8,050!

This is an extremely strong price. The $8050 result seems to include more than a $6500 premium for a variety that is not widely discussed and is ignored by most collectors of Liberty Seated Quarters. It is unlikely that anyone honed in on this specific coin for other reasons. It does not have great surfaces. Is the $8050 result an auction record for a circulated 1843-O quarter?

The 1853 Arrows & Rays quarter that is PCGS certified “Proof-63” really requires a separate discussion. It sold for $39,750, an amount that is higher than I expected it to bring.

The 1854 quarter in this sale is, indisputably, a Proof, though it is just not an exciting coin. It is PCGS certified ‘Proof-64.’

McCarthy refers to it as “a reasonably attractive coin.” I thought that it just barely makes a 64 grade, perhaps it merits a grade of 64.2. The $13,800 result was unsurprising.

I did not take the time to closely inspect the 1858 that is NGC certified ‘Proof-66’ and has a CAC sticker. John Albanese regards the $12,650 result as a fair market price.

There were two 1859-S quarters in this auction, each of which is PCGS graded “AU-50.” The 1859-S is one of the key dates in the series of Liberty Seated Quarters, especially of the ‘No Motto’ type.

The first 1859-S is vastly superior to the second. The first did not sell. My impression is that a bid of at least $18,400 (=$16,000+15%) would have been required to acquire it. The second sold for $16,100, an extremely strong price, given the nature of this specific coin. It would have made more sense, in my view, to pay $18,400 or a little more for the first rather than $16,100 for the second 1859-S.

VI. Barber Quarters

This auction contained a small, though important, group of condition rarities of better-date Barber Quarters. An 1896-O is PCGS graded ‘MS-66’ and has a CAC sticker. It brought $17,250, less than the $20,700 that the Eliasberg-Duckor 1896-O realized on July 31, 2009 in Los Angeles. If my memory serves fairly, the Eliasberg-Duckor 1896-O is a much better coin. The consignor was lucky that this 1896-O realized $17,250.

John Brush disagrees and he is very enthusiastic about this 1896-O. “Only two CAC [approved MS-66 1896-O quarters] are known with one MS-67 higher,” Brush emphasizes. “We [at DLRC] were an underbidder on this coin and thought it was extremely nice. The date is under-rated compared to other pieces as they just don’t come available in auction or privately. We thought that this coin sold reasonably for the quality that it represented,” Brush maintains.

In contrast, Albanese regards the $17,250 result as a fair market price, neither strong nor weak. It is a greater amount than I expected this 1896-O to bring.

The 1896-S is scarcer than the 1896-O. Indeed, the 1896-S is one of the three key dates in the series of Barber Quarters. The 1896-S in this sale is one of nine that is PCGS graded MS-65 and it is one of only two CAC approved MS-65 grade 1896-S quarters.

This 1896-S brought $47,437.50. Albanese reports that the CAC bid or would have bid around “$46,000” for this coin. Brush likewise reveals that DLRC was “an underbidder on this piece and thought that the coin was quite nice. We think that gem Barbers are great coins, especially with the CAC sticker,” Brush states.

As for the 1900-O in this auction, I disagree with the certified “MS-67” grade. The $15,525 result is very strong for this specific coin. If it were a more impressive coin, it would have sold for much more.

My favorite Barber Quarter in this auction is the 1905-O. It is PCGS graded MS-66 and is CAC approved. It is very attractive plus, with really neat natural toning. Indeed, the colorful appearance of the reverse is terrific.

John Brush reveals that DLRC “bought this” 1905-O. “With only four certified by CAC in this grade, and none higher, this date seems to be a good value in the series and we were excited to actually win this item. We have not tried to place the coin, but we like buying O-mint Barber Quarters in near finest known grades in the series, especially with CAC stickers,” Brush explains.

Also, Brush asserts that the “overall attractiveness” this 1905-O quarter is “not evident online.” I very much agree. Connoisseurs of Barber coinage would really enjoy tilting this coin under a light. It is enticing. The $8625 price is weak.

Brush and Kleinsteuber both like the 1906-O that is NGC graded “MS-68.” It sold for $14,950. “The coin was nicely original and in hindsight, I wish we had bid more on the piece,” Brush says. Matt Kleinsteuber emphasizes the aesthetic characteristics of this coin, “absolute pristine surfaces, [with] amazing hues of green and russet-red, a wonderful coin.”

I, too, very much like the toning on this 1906-O. In my view, however, its grade is just MS-67. The $14,950 result is moderate to strong.

The 1913-S is scarcer than the 1896-S. The 1901-S, the 1913-S and the 1896-S are the three keys to the series of Barber Quarters.

The 1913-S in this sale is exemplary. It is very attractive, with mellow natural toning. Further, it has minimal abrasions. The price realized of $25,300 is almost strong.

I did not see the Proof 1915 quarter in this first Platinum Night session. It is PCGS certified ‘Proof-67 Cameo’ and CAC approved. Matt clearly remembers it, “monster color, just beautiful!” This 1915 went for $16,100, a very strong price.

The assortment of scarce and rare classic quarters in this auction is memorable. I enjoyed viewing and writing about them. Next, I will cover half dollars that sold in this Platinum Night session.

©2012 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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  1. Another fantastic article, Greg! Very well written with TONS of great info. Again, it’s dangerous to split hairs on what is a strong, very strong and extremely strong price. If you put your self in the shoes of the collector that desires to acquire a 1796 Quarter, they can pay a bit more now or potentially wait several years or more for a comparable example..and at what price then?? Sure, if you need to sell a coin 6 months after you buy it, that extra 20-30% can be the difference of a profit or a loss. But if you want to own a coin like this for 20 years and then hand it down in the family, there is zero difference between paying $200,000 and $250,000.

  2. Looking at the picture of the 1804 quarter, the coin looks much different from the picture from the auction catalogue in 1998. It
    is much darker especially with the brown toning.


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