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HomeUS CoinsNot Fully Appreciated, Norweb 1796 Quarter Sells for $411,250

Not Fully Appreciated, Norweb 1796 Quarter Sells for $411,250

Among classic (1793-1934) U.S. coins, in addition to 1796 quarters, there are more than a few one-year types or subtypes: 1793 Half Cents, 1793 Chain Cents, 1793 Wreath Cents, 1859 ‘No Shield’ Indian Cents, 1883 ‘No Cents’ Liberty Nickels, 1913 ‘Full Mound’ Buffalo Nickels, 1853 ‘Arrows & Rays’ Quarters, 1839 ‘No Drapery’ Liberty Seated Halves, 1853 ‘Arrows & Rays’ Half Dollars, 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagles, 1808 Quarter Eagles, and 1907 ‘High Relief’ Double Eagles ($20 gold coins).

At least one variety of 1907 Indian Head Eagles is generally regarded as a single year type as well. In my view, 1909 ‘VDB’ Lincoln Cents and 1864 ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent pieces are major die varieties, not one-year types. It is often argued that 1793 Liberty Cap Cents are one-year types, though these are not much different from many 1794 Liberty Cap Cents. Clearly, Four Dollar gold pieces are patterns and should not be listed as types of U.S. coins in guides.

So, a type set of all silver quarters, a type set of all early U.S. series, a type set of all U.S. silver coins, or a comprehensive type set of all U.S. coins, requires a 1796 quarter. It is a mandatory component of each of several popular type sets. Expensive, gem quality, pre-1840 coins are usually acquired by people who collect ‘by type,’ People who collect early U.S. coins ‘by date’ typically enjoy acquiring circulated (sub-60 grade) 1796 quarters.Qu96VF30Obv

A 1796 quarter in AG-03 grade would probably retail for around $8000. There are, though, many non-gradable 1796 quarters that have sold at auction for less than $8000 each, including the already mentioned ‘holed and plugged’ coin that brought $2585 on Sept. 5, 2014. A Very Fine-20 grade 1796 quarter may retail for around $35,000, depending upon the physical characteristics of the individual coin. In Feb. 2014, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-30 1796 for $38,187.50.

III. 1796 Quarters are Extremely Scarce

On the whole, there are tens of thousands of collectors who demand a 1796 quarter. Unfortunately for such collectors, just 550 to 725 exist in all grades, in my estimation. In this range, I am including 1796 quarters that would fail or should fail to receive numerical grades from PCGS or NGC, because of serious problems.

These are thus one of the rarest type coins, in relative terms. Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dollars, which were minted during two years, 1796 and 1797, are scarcer. The already mentioned one-year types of Quarter Eagles, 1796 ‘No Stars’ and 1808, are the rarest of all U.S. type coins. Indeed, these are each truly rare.

Among coins that fulfill requirements for a type set of silver quarters, the 1796 is the only coin that is very expensive. A Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Quarter in Good-04 grade could surely be found for less than $550. A Capped Bust ‘Large’ Quarter (1815-28) in Good-04 grade could certainly be obtained for less than $200, possibly for less than $100. A Capped Bust ‘Small’ Quarter (1831-38) in Good-04 grade could probably be purchased for less than $80.

Among the remaining ten design types of silver quarters, decent representatives could be acquired for less than $50 each, often for much less. Good-04 grade representatives of all types or subtypes of Liberty Seated Quarters could be obtained for less than $40 each.

A MS-63 grade, silver Washington Quarter could easily be purchased for just slightly above than ‘melt value,’ the bullion value of its silver content. Attractive, circulated Standing Liberty Quarters may be obtained for only a little more than ‘melt value’ as well.

IV. Norweb 1796 Quarter is Underrated

The Norweb 1796 quarter is the fourth finest known 1796 quarter that comes to mind. Tentatively, I suggest that the PCGS graded MS-67, Norman-Knoxville 1796 quarter is the finest known and is closely followed by the NGC graded MS-67+ Newman 1796 quarter. The LA-Terrell 1796 quarter, which Stack’s auctioned in Oct. 1990, has been PCGS graded MS-66 for a long time and is depicted on the PCGS CoinFacts site.

Although I have never seen the Foxfire-Simpson 1796, I have heard detailed reports about it from trusted experts. It may rank fourth. The Foxfire-Simpson 1796 was NGC graded MS-66 and is now PCGS graded MS-65+.

1796 Stickney-Clapp-Eliasberg Quarter Dollar SP-66
1796 Stickney-Clapp-Eliasberg Quarter Dollar

The certification of the Eliasberg 1796 quarter as “SP-66” is not widely accepted among experts who I know. Besides being typically prooflike and not unusual for a 1796 quarter, the Eliasberg 1796 has many hairlines, especially in the obverse inner fields. Most of these hairlines are behind toning and are hard to see at first, though become very much apparent as the Eliasberg 1796 is tilted at varying angles under a lamp.

As the Eliasberg 1796 is brighter and flashier than the Norweb 1796, I could understand how some experts might figure that it is of higher quality than the 1796. It could be fairly argued, however, that the Norweb 1796 is superior. Many collectors like deeply toned coins. Certainly, the Norweb 1796 scores higher in the technical category, as it is much closer to being flawless. In any event, there will never be unanimous agreement among experts regarding grades. High quality, early coins are especially difficult to grade. Even so, I am surprised that that more enthusiasm has not been expressed for the Norweb 1796.

The blue hues, green colors and shades of russet, some with orange tints, on the Norweb 1796 are really neat. Besides, the Norweb 1796 is prooflike, too. The reflective surfaces are not as dynamic as they are on some 1796 quarters, partly because the Norweb 1796 quarter has so much toning. On several surviving 1796 quarters, however, reflective surfaces have been made artificially brighter by dipping. The originality and stability of the Norweb 1796 quarter should be appreciated to a greater extent.

The Norweb 1796 is one of the most underrated early U.S. coins, in terms of public attention, though it did realize the third highest auction result for a 1796 quarter. It sold for $411,250 on Sept. 4, 2014. The Newman 1796 was auctioned for $1,527,500 in Nov. 2013 and the Eliasberg 1796 just went for $881,250 at the ANA Convention in Illinois. Maybe the Norweb 1796 will become famous in the future?

©2014 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. I’m sorry but the 1796 quarter in Mint State is not a rarity, not even close.
    All you need to acquire a nice one is to have the money. Not even patience or luck. Is the current market value worth it? I remind readers of the often related in print story from Abe Kosoff that back in the 1940’s he was offered in one instance over 100 mint state and prooflike 1796 quarters from the Virgil Brand estate at well under $50 apiece.


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