By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
I’m beginning a new series about United States gold coins entitled Five Brief Takes. These are going to be brief (or not-so-brief) observations I have made in my day-to-day business of buying and selling choice and rare US gold. If you would like to see a specific series addressed, please email me with your suggestions.
1856-D $2.50 PCGS AU58 CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
The Rarest D-Mint Quarter Eagle
While the 1856-D remains the rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle in terms of overall rarity, I’m now firmly convinced that the 1840-D is the rarest in terms of high-grade rarity. In looking back over my inventory records from the last five years, I note that I have sold exactly zero nice 1840-D quarter eagles while during the same period of time I have sold three or four 1856-Ds that I felt were nice.
1840-D $2.50 NGC MS60
In looking at auction records, the last really nice 1840-D to sell was the NGC/CAC AU55+ which brought $21,150 USD as Stack’s Bowers 2015 ANA: 10179. Interestingly, the same sale represents the last nice 1856-D quarter eagle’s appearance (a PCGS/CAC AU58 that brought $47,000), but a decent number of nice ones have sold via private treaty. Given that the PCGS Price Guide for the 1840-D is $20,000 in AU55 (to pick a random higher grade) versus $38,500 for the 1856-D, I’d say that the former issue appears much undervalued.
1857-D $2.50 PCGS AU58 CAC
The Most Mysterious Quarter Eagle from Dahlonega
The most enigmatic Dahlonega quarter eagle remains the 1857-D. PCGS has graded 16 in AU58 and 14 in Uncirculated (none higher than MS62), yet the CAC population is just five in total (one in AU53 and four in AU58). And unless I am mistaken, as recently as a year ago, the CAC population was just two or three coins in total.
So what’s with all the Uncirculated coins? Aren’t any of them nice enough to gain approval at CAC?
From what I’ve seen, the answer seems to be a resounding “no.” Virtually every 1857-D quarter eagle I have seen in the last five-plus years has either been recolored or hairlined from an old cleaning. I’ve long maintained that there was a hoard of this date at one time, with most of the coins being Uncirculated or thereabout. It seems that nearly all the coins were cleaned before they entered the numismatic marketplace, leaving collectors with bright, unoriginal coins as the most readily available examples of this date.
1852-D $2.50 NGC AU58 CAC
A Date That Surprised Me
A date whose rarity in CAC-approved high grades has surprised me is the 1852-D. Only six have been approved in total, with just one higher than AU55: a single MS62. The reason this surprises me is that I know of at least three nice MS62 coins (Heritage 1999 FUN: 7651), the Green Pond coin (Heritage 2004 FUN: 1030), and the Heritage 2004 FUN: 7146 coin – plus an impressive NGC MS64 from the Duke’s Creek Collection that brought a record-setting $57,500 when it was last sold in April 2006. One of the PCGS MS62s has CAC approval, and the 1999 FUN coin (which I bought as the agent for the Kansas Collection) has never been in to CAC. But what about any of the 19 graded AU55 or AU58 by PCGS, not to mention any of the two PCGS MS61s or the two PCGS MS63s?
1839-D $2.50 NGC EF45 CAC
The Most Popular Issue Is…
If I had to choose the single most popular quarter eagle from Dahlonega, it would likely be the 1839-D. This issue has multiple levels of demand as it is the only Classic Head quarter eagle from this mint, and it is the very first Dahlonega issue of this (or any) denomination. Despite the obvious popularity of this issue, I personally believe it is still undervalued, especially in collector grades. As an example, the current (2/2021) PCGS Price Guide for an EF40 is $6,750 while in EF45 it is $7,250. These numbers are basically unchanged for the last five-plus years. In my opinion, any 1839-D quarter eagle in EF grades that is above-average (not necessarily nice enough to sticker at CAC but not scrubby and/or overgraded) should easily be worth 90-120% of these numbers, if not more. In Choice AU, this date has seen better price performance over the last five years, but I still like the value that the 1839-D quarter eagle represents.
1845-D $2.50 PCGS MS61 CAC
And in Conclusion…
On the whole, collector demand for this series has increased significantly in the last few years. From a price perspective, average-quality coins have not seen much of a jump in price but nice, original coins have proven elusive and have increased in cost. One thing most collectors learn when they decide to put together a set of D-mint quarter eagles is that this is an extremely challenging endeavor that could easily take five to 10 years if quality is a factor. Even a common date like an 1843-D or an 1845-D is difficult to locate with original color and choice surfaces. It is safe to say that any quarter eagle from Dahlonega in AU55 or finer with great color and sharp detail is really scarce; if not rare.
Are you interested in assembling a meaningful set of Dahlonega quarter eagles? I’d love to work with you and can be reached via email at [email protected].
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About Doug Winter
Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.
Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought-after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality, and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.
Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues
In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
- Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
- Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
- Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
- The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
- Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
- An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
- The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
- A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
- The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
- Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis
Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.