1836 Classic Head Quarter Eagle. Proof-64 Cameo (PCGS). CAC. Secure Holder.
This outstanding early Proof gold rarity would serve as a highlight in the finest cabinet. Boldly struck on the obverse, each star is fully brought up and crisp and Liberty’s hair curls are as sharp as ever seen in a quarter eagle of this type. Deep reflectivity in the fields was imparted by carefully polished dies. The reverse is equally sharp with boldly defined shield lines, feathers on the eagle, and frosted lettering in the legend — even the dentils are bold. A partial wire rim or fin is present on the obverse and even stronger on the upper reverse rim. The surfaces display copper-gold and medium orange patina. A tiny curved lint mark is evident on the reverse below the left side of the letter N in UNITED. This is a simply beautiful, classic Cameo Proof.
The McCloskey-8 attribution represents die combination 1-A of the 1836 issue. The obverse exhibits a fancy style 8 in the date with the first star equidistant between the bust and dentils, star 6 far from the adjacent curl, and star 13 closer to the curls than the dentils. On the reverse of this variety, the first letter A in AMERICA is positioned high and distant from the adjacent letter M. Additionally, there is a double bud in the branch, the eagle has a tongue, and the lowest arrowhead is very close to right edge of the left serif of the final letter A in AMERICA. This obverse die was apparently only used to coin Proofs in this year, while the reverse die was also used to coin circulation strikes.
When used to strike the present example, the obverse die was in a fairly early state with no signs of lapping, clashing, or cracks. The reverse is a later die state with extensive lapping that has fragmented the berry and polished away the stem and much of the lower leaf in the central pair. The branch stem is also discontinuous and appears broken.
The mintage for this issue is unknown, delivered as it was years before the Mint started keeping records on the number of Proof coins struck. Just seven different specimens have been traced, and given the likelihood that a specially prepared and distributed issue such as this would have been carefully preserved over the years, it is likely that virtually all of the coins struck have survived to the present day. Based on this assumption, the mintage for this issue is probably on the order of only eight to 10 pieces.
Perhaps surprisingly for an exceedingly rare Proof issue with so few coins known, the Proof 1836 quarter eagle is known in three different die varieties. This is easily explained, however, by looking at the manner in which these coins were produced. Rather than setting out to produce well-defined Proofs for sale to contemporary collectors (as it would do in later years), the United States Mint of the 1830s prepared such coins on an as needed basis, almost always in very limited numbers, and at different times throughout the year. When a few specimens were needed to fill numismatic demand or for presentation or other official purposes, the Mint obliged by utilizing whatever dies were on hand at that time. Of the seven known survivors, just two or three are from the present extremely rare die pairing. Perhaps the foremost collector of early gold coin varieties of all time, Harry W. Bass, Jr., may not have known about this Proof die pairing, although he did own a Proof 1836 quarter eagle that was sold in our (Bowers and Merena’s) May 2000 sale of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, lot 92.
The importance of this rare Proof Classic Head quarter eagle cannot be overstated. With a mere seven specimens known for the date, two of which are held in museum collections, the present offering may represent a once in a lifetime bidding opportunity for advanced collectors.
PCGS# 388943. NGC ID: 286W.
Provenance: From the Dr. James A. Ferrendelli Collection. Earlier ex F.C.C. Boyd; Abe Kosoff’s sale of the “World’s Greatest Collection” (F.C.C. Boyd), Part VI, January 1946, lot 103; J.F. Bell; Abe Kosoff’s “A Memorable Sale of U.S. & Territorial Gold Coins” (Bell), March 1948, lot 97; John Jay Pittman; David W. Akers’ sale of the John Jay Pittman Collection, Part II, May 1998, lot 1720; our (Bowers and Merena’s) Lucien M. LaRiviere Collection, May, 2001, lot 171; Heritage’s sale of April 2012, lot 4214.
To be sold in the Stacks Bowers Rarities sale February 10, 2016 as Lot #183