A small mintage of 64,080 Capped Bust quarters was struck in 1822, with two die varieties known for the date. In our upcoming June 8 – 13 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction, we are offering a PCGS-graded Gem example of the scarcer B-2 variety, easily recognized by the blundered 25/5/50 denomination on the reverse. This blundered reverse, attributed to Chief Engraver Robert Scot by Walter Breen, is one of the most famous die cutting errors in American numismatics.
Research by Steve Tompkins indicates the reverse die was actually produced in early 1818, but never used until 1822. The number punches are from the same set as those used in 1818, and the size and number of dentils is consistent with coins from that period. The master die incurred some damage on the underside of the scroll in 1818, and the eagle’s claw broke off the master hub in 1919, features that show on all dies cut after those dates but do not appear on this coin. It seems safe to assume that the elderly Scot, who would pass away the following year and had notoriously weak eyesight, produced this die in 1818, along with the seven reverse dies that were actually used that year, and set it aside because of the defect. The die was used to strike a small number of coins in 1822, possibly the 8,572 pieces in Warrant number 905, delivered on 12/20/1822. It was resurrected in 1828 to strike the B-3 die marriage of that year. The obverse die was previously used to strike the B-1 variety of 1822.
Curiously, both proof and business-strike examples of the B-2 variety are known.
Perhaps because the B-2 is so scarce, early catalogers seem to have overlooked the blundered reverse. It is not mentioned in Haseltine’s Type Table in 1881, the first serious attempt to classify the series by die variety. Philadelphia numismatist John Colvin Randall, who may have done much of the research for the Type Table, had identified two varieties of the 1822 quarter by the time he sold his collection through W. Elliot Woodward in 1885, though he did not specifically mention the blundered reverse. One of his coins was purchased by T. Harrison Garrett and later identified as the B-2 variety, when it was sold in 1980.
Present-day collectors prize examples of the distinctive blundered reverse, with recent sales including the MS66 NGC specimen that realized US$195,500 in lot 564 of the Palm Beach Signature Auction (Heritage, 3/2006). PCGS has graded five examples of the B-2 in Mint State grades, with this coin tied with the Gene Gardner MS65 specimen as the finest seen at that service. NGC has graded only three examples of the B-2 in Mint State grades, through their VarietyPlus program, one in MS63, one in MS65, and the Eliasberg/Palm Beach Signature coin in MS66.
The coin we are offering in Long Beach is a delightful Gem, with well-detailed design elements that show just a touch of the usual softness on the stars and eagle’s talons. Attractive shades of lavender-gray, powder-blue, and golden-brown toning enhance the terrific eye appeal, with vibrant mint luster underneath. The surfaces are immaculately preserved. This coin should find a home in the finest collection or Registry Set.