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The Marvelous Pogue Family Coin Collection, Part 5: 1820 Capped Bust Quarters


Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #279

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds….
It is likely that the Pogue Collection contained the all-time greatest set of ‘Large Size’ Capped Bust quarters, 1815 to 1828. My preliminary belief is that these are superior to the ‘Large Size’ Capped Bust quarters of Eliasberg, Newman, Pittman, and the Norweb family, respectively. Those of 1820 are particularly impressive. For the rest of my life, I will vividly remember examining the 1820 quarters in the Pogue Collection. I am certain that no other collection has ever contained a better group of 1820 quarters.

For a long time, the Capped Bust quarters of the Pogue Collection had been generally unseen celebrities in the coin collecting community. They were only briefly displayed at dealer tables, during two or three coin conventions, many years ago, probably without announcements. Very few people saw the Pogue quarters before 2015, and even fewer had access to a list of them. The relatively secret nature of the set added to its allure. The reality turned out to be consistent with the legend of the Pogue Capped Bust quarters.

Regarding the Pogue Family Collection overall, in part 4, information about the first sale was provided, along with discussion of 18th century rarities. Some general information about the collection is put forth in part 1 of this series, the main topic of which is Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollars.

Budget-minded collectors who are interested in 19th-century quarters may wish to read a discussion of silver quarters that cost less than $500 each. Although the Pogue Collection quarters are expensive, circulated 1820 quarters are not extremely expensive. One in Good-04 grade may retail for around $110. In January 2012, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded VF-20 1820 for $748. In September 2013, Stack’s-Bowers sold a PCGS graded VG-10 1820 for $203.28. Given their scarcity and historical importance, circulated Capped Bust silver coins are good values.

What are Capped Bust Quarters?

The first type of Capped Bust Quarters was struck from 1815 to 1828, and is typically called ‘Large Size’ or ‘Large Diameter.’ The design of these is credited to John Reich. ‘Large’ Capped Bust Quarters were specified to each have a diameter of seventeen sixteenths (17/16) of an inch (about 26.99 mm), while ‘Small’ Capped Bust Quarters, those dating from 1831 to ’38, were specified to have a diameter of 0.95 inch (19/20″), approximately 24.13 millimeters.


In actuality, there are are several differences; the two types of Capped Bust Quarters seem to be really different designs by different artists. William Kneass should probably be credited with the design of the ‘Small Size’ type. This discussion is limited to 1820 quarters, which are of the ‘Large Size’ type.

The Pogue Collection contained five 1820 quarters, four business strikes and a Proof. A large portion of finished collections of “Large” Capped Bust quarters contain at least three business strike 1820 quarters because there are three major varieties that are often collected as distinct dates. In regards to minting quarters, there were three notably different die punches for the numeral zero in the year 1820, which is the ‘date’ on the coin.

Large, Medium and Small Zeroes

The distinctions in the numerals that stem from large 0, medium 0 and small 0 punches are somewhat readily apparent. The respective zeroes not only differ in size, these are different shapes, really of different fonts.

An obverse die and a reverse die are used to impart design elements into prepared blanks, on a mechanical press, to produce coins. Evidently, five pairs of dies were used to mint 1820 quarters. The ‘Small 0’ coins are products of the B-4 and B-5 die pairings. There is not a need to know the meanings of B-4 and B-5 die pairings to collect Capped Bust quarters, and most relevant collectors would not remember, if they ever knew.

Even people who collect by die varieties do not usually memorize the defining characteristics of all the varieties. They refer to reference books, like the Rea-Peterson book, Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint (2010). The ‘B’ numbers are just standard identifiers for pairs of dies that were used to make bust quarters of each date.

Just three obverse dies were employed to strike 1820 quarters. The B-1 and B-2 varieties were struck from a single 1820 ‘Large 0’ obverse die and separate reverse dies.

Some people who collect Capped Bust quarters ‘by date’ seek three different 1820 business strikes for their respective sets. Other collectors, however, do not recognize the ‘Medium 0’ as such, which is the product of the B-3 die pairing, and classify the B-3 as a ‘Large 0’ variety, along with the B-1 and B-2 die pairings.

The Rea-Peterson reference (2010) states that four reverse dies were used and refers to the obverse die that PCGS lists as having a ‘Medium 0’ as having a “Large Wide 0.” It seems widely accepted that the B-4 and B-5 die pairing were both struck from a single obverse die that has a ‘Small 0.’

Generally, readily apparent, major differences in numerals, which do not require a magnifying glass to grasp, constitute distinct dates. Whether two 1820 quarters are needed for a set by date, ‘Large 0’ and ‘Small 0,’ or three, including a ‘Medium 0,’ is a matter of opinion. It is a fact that there are known 1820 quarters of five different die pairings, which are referenced as B-1 to B-5.

Pogue Lot 1063 - 1820 Capped Bust Quarter. Browning-2. Large 0. Rarity-2. Mint State-66 (PCGS).

Although few collectors assemble sets of die pairings, attributing quarters by die variety helps identify individual coins and track them. The main difference between an 1820 B-1 and an 1820 B-2 relates to the placement of the scroll–and the letters within–that features the Latin phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM, which I have cited in other discussions.

Most collectors of bust quarters are or would be happy to own one ‘Large 0’ 1820, regardless of whether it is a B-1 or a B-2. Indeed, only a small percentage of collectors of quarters even think about the meaning of B-1 or B-2, though some specialists greatly enjoy collecting by die pairing, which is certainly challenging.

Both the ‘Large 0’ 1820 quarters that were in the Pogue Collection are PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved, auction lot #1062 (B-1 die pairing) and #1063 (B-2). The B-1 was earlier owned by Louis Eliasberg, who formed the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins.

The Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820 is my kind of coin. It scores very highly in the category of originality. It has excellent natural toning. The fields are a light brown-russet-gray blend. There is a neat orange glow about the numerals and there are cool green tints in the outer fields. The russet outline of Miss Liberty and the orange-russet color about some stars are subtly pretty. The toning is well balanced and pleasing. This coin is very attractive overall. A grade in the middle of the 66 range is surely accurate and CAC approval is unsurprising.

I liked the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820 when I first viewed this coin in April 1997. I then noted that I was impressed by toning and technical factors. Although it was graded “MS-65” by someone at Bowers & Merena, there has been much grade-inflation since 1997 and many of the coins in the Eliasberg sales were undergraded in the context of the standards of the time. Later, Charlie Browne, a veteran of many grading stints at PCGS, revealed that he graded this coin as “MS-65+” in 1997, which, in his jargon, meant that it was likely to be graded as MS-66 by PCGS or NGC, eventually.

On May 19, 2015, the $99,875 result was newsworthy. A price of $82,000 would have been moderate.

The second 1820 ‘Large 0’ in the Pogue Collection (lot #1063), of the B-2 variety, is also PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. It has deep and rich, green-blue toning along with russet, tan and gray blends. In my view, the Eliasberg ‘Large 0’ has a more appealing and comforting overall appearance, though opinions regarding such toning vary considerably.

The $94,000 result for the Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820 B-2 is very strong. The Gardner-Link B-2 might have been a much better value. It is PCGS graded “MS-65+,” CAC approved, and comes very close to qualifying for a MS-66 grade. The Gardner-Link, PCGS graded “MS-65+” coin brought $64,625 in 2012 and that same coin sold again on May 12, 2015, for $54,050, one week prior to the Pogue 1 sale, as part of the Gene Gardner Collection. It is now in Link’s PCGS registry set.

The collector known as “Link” purchased the next 1820 quarter, lot #1064 in the Pogue I sale. This ‘Medium 0’ coin (B-3) is also the Eliasberg Collection.

In the Eliasberg ’97 sale by Bowers & Merena (New Hampshire), lot #1377 realized $27,500. This coin was NGC graded as MS-67 before being offered by Superior Galleries in 1998 and was later auctioned by Heritage in 2006 for $63,250. At the Eliasberg ’97 event, this coin (B-3) brought more than the already mentioned Eliasberg ‘Large 0’ (B-1), which then sold for $25,300.

The $63,250 result in 2006 is understandable. I am puzzled that it did not bring much more in 2015. The $64,625 result is just marginally more than the price realized in 2006.

Pogue Lot 1064 - 1820 Capped Bust Quarter. Browning-3. Medium 0. Rarity-3. Mint State-66 (PCGS).

At the moment, I do not clearly remember the PCGS graded MS-66 coin of this same variety that Bowers & Merena auctioned in 1998. If there are other ‘Medium 0’ 1820 quarters that are considered clearly superior to the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Medium 0,’ then the existence of better pieces could contribute to an understanding of the result for the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Medium 0’ on May 19, 2015.

While this same coin was catalogued for the Eliasberg ’97 sale, it was identified as being of the B-3 die variety, though was listed as a “Large 0” in the Eliasberg ’97 catalogue. Evidently, the cataloguers in 1997 regarded the B-1, B-2 and B-3 die pairings as all being of the ‘Large 0’ major variety.

“There was just the 1820 ‘Large 0’ and the ‘Small 0’ as major varieties. Not long ago, the ‘Medium 0’ was branched off” to be its own major variety,” explains the collector who refers to himself as Link. “There are still a lot of collectors who ignore the ‘Medium 0’ or keep it in their sets as a ‘Large 0.’ This could be the reason why there was not as much interest in the ‘Medium 0’ as in the other 1820 quarters in this auction,” Link suggests.

Among the two Eliasberg-Pogue 1820 quarters, the ‘Large 0’ (B-1) sold for 92% of the price of the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Medium 0’ (B-3) in 1997; $25,300 is 92% of $27,500. As already noted, the Eliasberg ‘Medium 0’ 1820 (B-3) was then called a ‘Large 0.’ On May 19, 2015, the B-1 sold for 154.5% as much; $99,875 is 154.5% as much as $64,625.

The $64,625 result was surprisingly low, a good deal, while the results for the two Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820 quarters were clearly very strong. There probably exist more than 2200 1820 quarters in total, surely more than 800 with a ‘Large 0.’ All 1820 quarters, however, are tremendous condition rarities in MS-65 and -66 grades. Very few MS-66 grade 1820 quarters exist.

Pogue Lot 1065 - 1820 Capped Bust Quarter. 1820 Browning-5. Rarity-5. Small 0. Mint State-66 (PCGS).

A ‘Small 0’ 1820 is the best business strike of the Pogue 1820 quarters. It is fabulous. I would be startled if any grading expert, who I know, assigned a grade lower than 66 to it. It is more than very attractive and the toning is excellent. Green, blue, orange-russet, brown-rust and gray hues all naturally developed in an even and enticing manner. This coin is more than very attractive and is even more colorful when tilted under a lamp.

As best I can tell, the Pogue ‘Small 0’ 1820 has never been dipped or cleaned. According to the Rea-Peterson reference, this coin was NGC graded as MS-67 before being offered by Bowers & Merena in January 2001. ANR auctioned it for $80,500 on August 11, 2006.

On May 19, 2015, it went for $99,875, the same price as the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820. Link again was the buyer. He prefers that his formal name not be mentioned.

“The Pogue coins were the most original and vibrant 1820 quarters that I have ever seen, with great surfaces and great eye appeal. They were worth stretching for,” Link declares. He is delighted to have acquired the ‘Medium 0’ and ‘Small 0’ 1820 quarters from the Pogue 1 sale.

Newman’s 1820 Quarters

Eric Newman’s bust quarters were auctioned by Heritage in New York in November 2013. Before and after the recent Pogue I sale, there was much talk among coin collectors relating to comparisons of Pogue bust quarters to Newman bust quarters. It is not practical to put forth a full comparison here. It is interesting, though, to reflect upon Newman’s 1820 business strikes. Newman did not have a Proof 1820 quarter.

Newman did have Large 0, ‘Medium 0’ and ‘Small 0’ 1820 quarters. Newman’s ‘Large 0,’ a B-2, is or was NGC graded as MS-66. Although it did not have a CAC sticker, I found this coin’s grade to be in the ‘low end’ to middle section of the 66 range. The Eliasberg-Pogue piece scores higher in the category of originality, while the Newman piece has slightly more eye appeal. In my view, the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Large 0’ is of slightly higher quality overall, though not by a wide margin.

That Newman ‘Large 0’ 1820 brought $38,187.50 in November 2013. This was one of the better values in that Newman sale and evidence to support my already emphasized point that the prices realized for the Pogue ‘Large 0’ 1820 quarters were very strong.

The Newman ‘Medium 0’ 1820 was NGC graded MS-64 and CAC approved. I very much liked the coin, though it is not in the same league as the Eliasberg-Pogue ‘Medium 0.’ In 2013, $29,375 was a strong price for the Newman coin, which grades in the middle of the MS-64 range.

The Newman ‘Small 0’ 1820 was NGC graded as “MS-66+.” It is one of the most visually entertaining early U.S. coins from the Newman Collection. The colors, reflective surface and overall energy have quite an impact. Unfortunately, this coin has notable contact marks and many hairlines. Its grade is around the border between MS-65 and MS-66, and perhaps does not cross that border.

In my view, the Newman coin is not close in quality to the Pogue ‘Small 0’ 1820. The price realized in 2013 is consistent with my interpretation as $41,125 is really a retail price for a MS-65+ 1820 not a result commensurate with a “MS-66+” grade. If most relevant experts had really graded it as MS-66+, it would have sold for from $60,000 to $110,000 in 2013. Probably, a realization of $85,000 would then have been a moderate result for a true ‘high end MS-66 grade 1820. So, the Pogue 1820 quarters soundly surpass the Newman 1820 quarters, though the Newman coins were particularly appealing.

Pogue Proof 1820

The Proof 1820 quarter was one of the most exciting coins in the Pogue 1 sale. Proofs dating from before 1856 are extremely rare especially those before 1830! Not all coins that have been catalogued as or certified as Proofs in the past are true Proofs. I have spent years carefully studying early Proofs, Special Strikings, and coins that might not be business strikes.

1820 Capped Bust Quarter. Browning-1. Rarity-8 as a Proof. Large 0. Proof-66 (PCGS)

Although Newman did not have a Proof 1820, there was an 1818 in the Newman Collection that is NGC certified as Proof-67 and CAC approved. I wrote an analytical article about it, and I am certain that the Newman 1818 is a Proof.

Nonetheless, there may not be any Proof quarters dated 1819 and those few dated 1820 are extremely important. Although there are many early coins certified by PCGS or NGC as Proofs that are controversial, this Pogue 1820 should be readily accepted as a Proof by all those who are familiar with the subject matter. The main differences between a Proof and a business strike relate to the fabric of the surfaces and the relationships of design elements to fields, especially numerals and border elements.

In addition to my discussion of the Proof 1818 quarter in the Newman Collection, I discuss Proof criteria in many other articles, including in one on the unique Proof 1855-S quarter and another on the Proof 1839 ‘No Drapery’ quarter that once sold for $517,500. It is not practical to discuss here all the physical details of the Pogue Collection Proof 1820 quarter.

The aesthetic aspects of this Proof 1820 quarter are outstanding. The russet central part of the eagle contrasts wonderfully with blue wingtips and a blue scroll above, along with great shades of green in the outer fields of the reverse.

The colors on the obverse are pretty, too, and almost as well balanced. If I remember correctly, Miss Liberty’s face has an orange glow. Her hair is tinted tan and russet. There is much blue toning in the inner fields that fades to blue-green around the stars. The obverse is more than very attractive and the reverse is beautiful, an unforgettable coin.

Probably, four or five Proof 1820 quarters survive. I have certainly seen three, including this one.

This Pogue 1820 Proof quarter realized $188,000, which seems ‘in line’ with current market realities. When the Pogues, Gene Gardner and the collector known as “Greensboro” were actively buying coins, there was more demand for pre-1856 Proof silver coins than there is in the present. Is anyone now collecting Proof Capped Bust quarters ‘by date’.

©2015 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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