HomeAuctionsKey 1849-O Quarter in SBG Auction, an Unnoticed Rarity

Key 1849-O Quarter in SBG Auction, an Unnoticed Rarity

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #234 …

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds….

One of the finest 1849-O quarters is ‘in the news’ as it will be offered by Stack’s-Bowers on August 6th, at the ANA Convention in Rosemont, Illinois. The 1849-O is the rarest Liberty Seated Quarter that was struck in New Orleans. The 1842-O ‘Small Date’ is the second rarest, though many collectors will settle for just an 1842-O ‘Large Date,’ which is not nearly as scarce as the 1842-O ‘Small Date.’ (Please click here for an introduction to Liberty Seated Quarters.) The 1849-O is a key to the With Drapery, No Motto type of Liberty Seated Quarters (1840-53 and 1856-65).

1849oOf course, people have noticed that all 1849-O Liberty Seated Quarters are rare. They are far more rare, however, than most interested collectors realize. It is not the fact that 1849-O quarters are rare that is unnoticed; it is the extent of their rarity that is largely unnoticed.

Although the PCGS CoinFacts site includes an estimate that “450” 1849-O quarters now survive, this number is much too high. PCGS and NGC together have graded just 109 different 1849-O quarters, a total which probably amounts to about seventy different coins. Among 1849-O quarters that are not currently graded by PCGS or NGC,there are probably twenty to forty, gradable or borderline gradable 1849-O quarters, especially coins that grade from Fair-02 to VG-10. In addition, there are at least thirty and maybe as many as fifty non-gradable 1849-O quarters, some of which could be in PCGS Genuine or NGC ‘Details’ holders. So, there are 120 to 160 in existence, probably not more than 145!

I. Condition Rankings 

The PCGS graded AU-58 1849-O that Stack’s-Bowers (SBG) will offer at auction during the Aug. 6th Rarities Night session is among the finest known, though is certainly not one of the top four. The NGC graded MS-64 1849-O in the Gene Gardner Collection may be the Richmond Collection 1849-O, which DLRC auctioned on March 7, 2005.

Richmond Collection 1849-O

A second piece is listed by NGC as grading “MS-64,” and, in Aug. 1995, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded “MS-64” 1849-O, though PCGS has not listed an 1849-O as grading above 58 since before March 2005. Therefore, it is possible that three different 1849-O quarters have been PCGS or NGC graded as “MS-64” in the past. Nevertheless, this total of three probably amounts to two different coins and it is not clear that most relevant experts would grade both of them as “MS-64.”

NGC lists two as grading “MS-62” and two as “MS-63.” One of these is almost certainly the Pittman coin, which has many hairlines and other technical issues. Another could be the Eliasberg coin, which might have been graded MS-63 by NGC, or even MS-64. These six that NGC has graded from MS-62 to -64, and the one that PCGS graded MS-64 in the past,  may be just  four different coins. The current offering of a PCGS graded and CAC approved “AU-58” 1849-O is particularly important.

CAC has approved one other as “AU-58,” certainly a different coin, which is owned by a collector in the Middle Atlantic States. Evidently, his is of slightly higher quality than the one in the current SBG auction.

The Richmond-Gardner coin, the Middle Atlantic 1849-O and the one that SBG will soon offer are the three best that have been ‘on the market’ in a long time. In January 2006, ANR auctioned the “Frog Run Farm Collection” 1849-O, which is also PCGS graded “AU-58.” Apparently, it is different from the two PCGS graded “AU-58” 1849-O quarters that are CAC approved. Moreover, the CAC was not founded until Oct. 2007. It may be true that the “Frog Run” 1849-O has never been submitted to the CAC. Also, the “Frog Run” 1849-O might be one of the two that NGC has graded as MS-62.

In the ANR catalogue of March 2005, the cataloguer then, of the same 1849-O quarter that will be offered on Aug. 6, 2014, states that there was an 1849-O that was then PCGS graded as “MS-62.” Further, this cataloguer indicates that still another had been PCGS graded as “MS-60” or as “MS-61,” as he said that there were then “two finer” than AU-58. As it is highly unusual for a Liberty Seated coin to be PCGS graded as “MS-60,” it is likely that this other 1849-O was PCGS graded as “MS-61.”

In a catalogue for an auction that was held in Jan. 2006, an ANR cataloguer then revealed that there was a “PCGS population” of four in AU-58 grade and “none higher.” So, ANR catalogues suggest that the two listings that were “higher” than AU-58 in PCGS data were deleted during the year 2005. These two are likely to be among those that NGC has graded from MS-62 to -64. It is also possible that a coin that was PCGS graded as MS-61 or MS-62 could later be PCGS graded as AU-58. When wholesalers ‘crack out’ coins and seek upgrades, they sometimes suffer by receiving downgrades.

Certainly, the Eliasberg 1849-O could have been PCGS graded as “MS-62“ and later NGC graded as  “MS-63” or as “MS-64.” At the Eliasberg ’97 sale in New York, all of Eliasberg’s coins were not certified. The Eliasberg 1849-O was catalogued as grading “MS-62,” though several experts in attendance, including Charlie Browne, assigned a higher grade to it. Louis Eliasberg, Sr. formed the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins.

Not much is known about the pedigrees of currently identified, AU-55 to MS-64 grade 1849-O quarters. At the present, insufficient information is available to formulate a detailed condition ranking of 1849-O quarters. The 1849-O that SBG will soon offer is extremely likely to be one of the ten best, and it could rank seventh!

II. 1849-O Quarter ‘In the News’!

This 1849-O is more than very attractive for an AU-58 grade Liberty Seated Quarter of any date! It looks better in actuality than it appears in published images. The blue tones are neat. Moreover, shades of russet, rust color and gray developed in an appealing manner. The portrait of the eagle naturally glows.

ex: Frog Run Farm, from ANR Robert Michael Prescott Sale 1/2006

There are quite a few medium scratches and significant contact marks. If not for these, however, this coin probably would have been graded MS-61 by PCGS. It is not unusual for an attractive coin with noticeable friction to be graded 61 or 62 by PCGS or NGC. Undoubtedly, the impressive eye appeal of this coin causes collectors to think less about its technical imperfections.

Although it scores relatively high in the category of originality, I have seen other 1849-O quarters that score a little higher in this category. Some of the hairlines and other imperfections stem from a poorly reasoned cleaning, perhaps more than a century ago. The toning, however, is natural and entertaining.

This same 1849-O was auctioned by ANR in March 2005, in Baltimore. Evidently, this 1849-O was PCGS graded as “AU-58” before March 2005.

It is apparent from the catalogue of that ANR sale that this 1849-O appears about the same now as it did in 2005. This is a sign that it was not deliberately modified in the interim. Although most coins tone every day, changes in a coin’s natural toning are usually not readily apparent for many years.

The fact that this 1849-O is now in a PCGS ‘Secure’ holder indicates that it has been encapsulated again since the inauguration of the PCGS “SecurePlus” program in March 2010. It is one of only seven 1849-O quarters that have stickers of approval from the CAC.

This 1849-O and the already mentioned 1849-O that is owned by a collector in the Middle Atlantic States are both PCGS graded AU-58 and CAC approved. The CAC has not approved an 1849-O quarter at a level higher than AU-58.

The CAC accepts submissions of coins that are already PCGS or NGC graded. Experts at the CAC then determine if the quality of the respective coin is ‘solid’ for the numerical grade that has already been assigned by PCGS or NGC. Put differently, if a submitted coin is PCGS or NGC graded as “AU-58,” CAC experts will affix a green sticker to the coin’s holder if they determine that the coin’s grade is in the middle OR the ‘high end’ of the ‘58’ grade range. Experts at the CAC are not maintaining that all CAC approved coins are ‘high end’ or are of ‘premium quality.’ Also, they are not maintaining that all coins that fail to be CAC approved were overgraded by PCGS or NGC.

If a coin just barely qualifies for an AU-58 grade, it may be fairly graded and fail to qualify for a CAC sticker, in the views of CAC experts. Nonetheless, many of the coins that fail to be CAC approved fail because they have been doctored. Some others are just overgraded in the views of most relevant experts, though there are very few relevant experts who have the courage to publicly communicate conclusions that are at odds with PCGS or NGC certified grades for specific coins.

Although an over-arching point is that the extent of the rarity of all 1849-O quarters is largely unnoticed, the extreme condition rarity of higher level 1849-O quarters is important, too. Finding a relatively original 1849-O that grades above VF-35, which does not have serious problems or annoying technical imperfections, can be very difficult.

III. Condition Rarity

Only a handful of 1849-O quarters that have been graded above VF-35 have sold at auction during the last nine years! In March 2012, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded and CAC approved EF-40 1849-O for $6612.50. In August 2013, SBG auctioned a different, PCGS graded EF-40 1849-O for $5875. It did not have a CAC sticker. A third PCGS graded EF-40 coin, also without a CAC sticker, was auctioned by Heritage in July 2009, for $6900. Apparently, the latter piece has colorful toning. In Feb. 2011, a PCGS graded EF-45 1849-O realized $7762.50. Are these the only certified EF-40 or -45 graded 1849-O quarters to have sold at public auction in many years?

In Aug. 2011, SBG auctioned an NGC graded AU-50 1849-O for $7820. One NGC graded AU-53 coin was recently sold in three different Heritage auctions, in Feb. 2012 for $9775, in Aug. 2012 for $8048.75, and in Feb. 2013 for $7,637.50. These two coins and two of the three already mentioned PCGS graded AU-58 coins are the only AU grade 1849-O quarters to have been auctioned since March 2005. The Richmond coin is the only 1849-O that grades above AU-58 to have been sold at auction in more than ten years.

IV. Good to Very Fine Grades

18690g06A PCGS or NGC certified, Good-04 to -06 grade 1849-O could probably be found for less than $1500, though months of waiting may be required. VG-08 to -10 grade coins probably sell for $1500 to $2100, when available, and a Fine grade 1849-O would retail for less than $3000. Months may pass, though, before a VG to Fine grade 1849-O becomes available.

As prices for Very Fine grade Liberty Seated coins tend to be heavily influenced by the aesthetics and relative originality of the respective coins, it is difficult to effectively generalize about them. I remember the PCGS graded VF-30 1849-O that SBG auctioned in Nov. 2011. As I said then, it is impressive and has nice, stable, light gray toning, with blue and brownish-russet hints. It brought $3738.

Anyways, there are fewer than twenty-five 1849-O quarters in Very Fine grade in existence! The majority of surviving 1849-O quarters grade below VF-20, if gradable at all. The rarity of VF-20 to -35 grade coins relates to the theme that the extent of the overall rarity of 1849-O quarters has been largely unnoticed.

©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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