Collectors of early U.S. quarter dollars may be interested in the opportunity of owning a rare early date. GreatCollections is offering a very fine 1804 Draped Bust quarter in an online auction that ends on January 16. Currently, the highest bid (out of 71 bids) on this mid-grade circulated example is $6,250 USD.
Since the United States Mint struck only 6,738 pieces, the 1804 type has the second lowest mintage in the Draped Bust Quarter series. Graded as a VF-35 by PGCS, the coin is encapsulated in a Gold Shield holder. The 1804 quarter is scarce in all grades, and to date, the service has reported only 21 examples graded higher. PCGS CoinFacts estimates that there are fewer than 400 surviving examples in all grades. Past auction records state that examples graded VF 35 and EF 40 have hammered for between $13-20,000.
While production quality at the early mint was highly variable, this piece is well-struck. Strong reverse details set off the subtle cabinet toning for the grade. Collector enthusiasm for this piece is considerable.
Background of the Draped Bust Quarter
Originally authorized by the US Mint Act of 1792, the Draped Bust Quarter had a tumultuous and short-lived history.
While the early Mint history is a sketchy due to the erratic nature of its record-keeping, it is believed the Mint contracted painter Gilbert Stuart to paint a beautiful portrait that could be used to improve the look of U.S. coinage. It is believed that Stuart used as the model for his design Philadelphia socialite Ann Bingham.
Stuart’s design was sculpted by Robert Scot, the first Chief Engraver of the US Mint. But Scot’s work was so off the mark that it caused a minor scandal. In response, Stuart distanced himself from the coin.
While this account of events could be true, some have cast doubt on these claims. Dealer David Bullowa famously challenged the story in the March 1942 issue of The Numismatist. Others came out to support the claim. This back and forth has continued over the years, and even today there is no definitive answer. What is certain is that the Draped Bust quarter was prepared “with great care and considerable effort” and loaded with national symbolism in a period of transition for a new nation.
At the beginning of the 19th century, quarters occupied a liminal space in the US economy. They were slightly too large for everyday transactions and too small for larger transactions and bank-to-bank or bank-to-business transfers – a fact that contributed to the short five-year run of the Draped Bust series and an eight-year break until the Capped Bust series was introduced in 1815. It would have been inconceivable to Americans in 1804 that the quarter dollar would be the most widely used coin in circulation two decades into the 21st century.
As the second issue of the series, the 1804 Draped Bust quarter is important as it also represents the second major design type in the first series of 25 cent pieces struck by the Mint. When production resumed in 1804, after an eight-year hiatus, the coin underwent a serious redesign process.
As on the old obverse, the new design was also centered on a bust based on Stuart’s painting of Ann Bingham. Even after being re-carved, the design still depicts a right-facing bust with long flowing hair with the upper strands tied back in a ribbon. The legend (LIBERTY) and date (1804) are separated by 13 six-pointed stars with seven on the left and six on the right. This is a reduction from the original 15 stars on the 1796 obverse. When the original design was instituted, there were only 15 states in the Union. Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1 of the same year, which may point to the reason that the number of stars was reduced to the more symbolic thirteen.
While the obverse was changed only slightly, the reverse was completely redesigned. Instead of the small eagle within a wreath of the 1796 type, the 1804 quarter’s reverse is dominated by the large heraldic eagle in an early example of the Great American Seal. In its left claw, the eagle holds a bundle of arrows, and in its right an olive branch. The eagle clenches a banner that has the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM in its mouth. Above the eagle is an arch of clouds covering thirteen stars. The eagle’s wingtips break into the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and almost touch the coin’s rim. At the bottom of the reverse design, the eagle’s tail splits the denomination 25 C.. This design would be continued until the series ended in 1807.
Bidding ends on Sunday January 16, 2022, 05:30:30 PM Pacific Time (PT)