In April 2006 Heritage will be auctioning the incomparable Duke's Creek Collection of gold dollars, quarter eagles and three dollar gold pieces. I have been asked to write the descriptions of these coins. In this second part of a two-part series, I continue the write-ups of these issues. ONE OF THE FINEST KNOWN 1839-D QUARTER EAGLES
1839-D NGC MS64. Variety 1-A. This is the more common of the two varieties for this year and it is quickly identifiable by a weak olive branch. An estimated 8,000 examples of this variety were produced.
The 1839-D quarter eagle is one of just five one-year only issues from the Dahlonega mint. It is among the most popular quarter eagles due to its status as the first-year-of-issue as well as the only Dahlonega coin of this denomination that employs the popular Classic Head design. As many as 200 pieces are known and this includes perhaps as many as a dozen that qualify as Uncirculated by today’s standards. Clearly, some were saved as souvenirs and there are at least three known that grade MS64 or better.
This piece shows a nice strike for the date. The radial lines of the stars are nearly complete and there is just some minor weakness on the curls around the ear and face. The obverse is very clean with no marks of note; the reverse shows a small but somewhat deep planchet defect through the ER in AMERICA towards the shield. The luster is satiny and original with the soft luxuriant luster typical of higher grade 1839-D quarter eagles. Both sides have acquired attractive medium to deep orange-gold color and this is an uncommonly attractive example of this coveted type.
I regard this as the third finest known 1839-D quarter eagle, trailing the James Stack coin (graded MS64 by PCGS) and the Bass II: 314 coin (conservatively graded MS63 by PCGS) that is now owned by an Alabama collector. The Duke’s Creek coin is likely to be the finest available for some time and, as such, it represents a great opportunity for the sophisticated specialist or type collector.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Superior 2/98: 3334 ($31,900).
EXCEEDINGLY RARE UNCIRCULATED 1840-D QUARTER EAGLE 1840-D NGC MS62. Variety 1-A. Struck from a perfect reverse die without cracks; extremely rare as such. This is one of two varieties for the year and it is easily recognizable by the mintmark leaning towards the 2 in the fraction.
This is one of the single most important Dahlonega quarter eagles of any date. It is the only truly Uncirculated 1840-D of which I am aware and it is by far the best struck piece I have seen. I first saw the coin in Auction ’84 and was astounded by it then; as I have become more knowledgeable about this series over the years the true significance of this coin has become more apparent to me.
The strike is amazing for the date. Both the obverse and reverse shows virtually full detail with uncommonly sharp centers. As mentioned above the reverse shows no crack and I am aware of just three or four perfect die coins. There is some minor roughness in the obverse fields as made as well as a few ticks that are consistent with the assigned grade. But this coin is so head and shoulders above any other 1840-D quarter eagle in terms of eye appeal that it almost seems unfair to mention them. The luster is slightly subdued with some natural haziness; the obverse is just a bit reflective while the reverse is frostier in its texture. The color is a natural light green-gold. Did I mention the fact that I like this coin…?
The late Jack Hancock considered this coin to be a highlight of the Duke’s Creek collection and I believe this was one of his all-time favorite coins. The 1840-D is the single rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle in high grades and if you are a serious collector of Dahlonega quarter eagles (or quarter eagles in general) you should realize that this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime coin that is unlikely to be exceeded by any other 1840-D.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Georgia collection, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1309 ($9,350), Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection, Hancock and Harwell, Stack’s 12/78: 86, Bareford collection, New Netherlands 11/56: 219. This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
ONE OF JUST FOUR MINT STATE EXAMPLES KNOWN OF THE VERY RARE 1841-D 1841-D NGC MS63. Variety 2-D. The mintmark is centered over the 2 in the fraction. There are thin die cracks going upwards from the top of the 1 in the fraction and the left of the R in AMERICA. This variety is extremely rare; I am aware of just two or three.
The 1841-D is one of the three very rare Dahlonega quarter eagles from the early part of the 1840’s. It is the fifth rarest issue of twenty produced. There were just 4,164 struck of which an estimated 75-85 are known. I know of exactly four Uncirculated 1841-D quarter eagles of which the present example is the second finest.
The obverse is very well struck with the exception of some weakness below the TY in LIBERTY and on the top of the hair; the reverse shows some flatness at the center. This is primarily due to the advanced reverse cracks mentioned above. This coin is quickly identifiable by a scratch on the obverse below the TAT in STATES. There is some minor mint-made roughness in the fields and a small diagonal mark on the reverse above the beak. A tiny rim nick on the reverse at 3:00 is barely visible within the NGC holder. Both sides are slightly prooflike with some areas of frost within the surfaces. The coloration is a medium to deep greenish-gold with some orange-gold seen on the reverse. Overall, this is a remarkable coin made more desirable by the fact that it is one of just two known of the 2-D variety.
In January 2004, the finest known 1841-D quarter eagle (graded MS63 by PCGS) was sold by Heritage as Lot 1017 in the Green Pond collection where it realized $40,250. I would expect that the Duke’s Creek example should sell for a comparable price or perhaps even more given the current status of the rare coin market, especially for important items such as this.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Michigan collection, Heritage 1993 ANA: 5508 ($25,300).
THE FINEST KNOWN 1842-D QUARTER EAGLE 1842-D NGC MS62. Variety 3-F. The only variety known for the year. Repunched 18 in the date; somewhat later die state without repunching seen on the 4. The reverse shows a series of die file lines above the AME in AMERICA.
Only 4,643 were struck with less than 100 pieces known today. This date is most often seen in the VF to EF grade range and it is not likely that more than a dozen or so exist in AU.
The strike is far above average for the issue and may be considered among the best I have seen on an 1842-D. The obverse is almost completely struck up with the exception of some weakness on the curl below the ear; the reverse has a nearly full center and this is very unusual for an issue that is generally seen with a sunken, incomplete appearance. The surfaces show a number of marks including a deep mark on the chin of Liberty, a shallow planchet flaw between stars eleven and twelve, a thin planchet flaw at the inside of the eagle’s neck and a depression on the cheek of Liberty that was caused by foreign matter adhering to the die at the time of striking. The luster is decidedly above-average for an issue that is generally seen dull and with minimal luster. Both the obverse and reverse are covered with light orange-gold color; this shades to a warm medium orange on the reverse. This is an exceptional coin for the grade with a wonderful appearance.
In the most recent edition of my book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861,” I ranked the 1842-D as the second rarest quarter eagle along with the 1856-D. I would have to revise this figure slightly downwards as the liberalization of grading interpretations has made a number of “new” relatively higher grade pieces available. That said, the 1842-D is still an extremely rare coin in the higher grades and the Duke’s Creek is one of just three pieces ever graded Uncirculated by a major service. It is the single highest graded by NGC and it is clearly among the best known examples of this very rare issue.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Bowers and Merena 3/88: 1974, Norweb collection, Mehl 4/37: 145.
LOVELY NGC MS61 1843-D SMALL MINTMARK QUARTER EAGLE 1843-D NGC MS61. Small mintmark. Variety 4-F. Early die state with perfect dies. This is the most common of the four varieties of this year.
This is as pretty a coin for the grade as one can possibly imagine with superb deep, even green-gold color seen on the obverse and reverse. This color is clearly indicative of the fact that this coin has never been cleaned or lightened and it is one of the more attractive quarter eagles in this entire collection, despite its comparatively “low” grade. The surfaces are extremely clean and lack the marks typically associated with the MS61 grade. Nearly all of the detail is up and bold and this is really an impressive example.
Production of quarter eagles at the Dahlonega mint increased significantly in 1843 and there were more pieces struck this year than in the previous four combined. Of the 36,209 1843-D quarter eagles made, there are probably more than 300 known. This date is easily found in grades up to and including AU55 but it is very rare and much underappreciated in Mint State. I am not personally aware of more than a half dozen with the finest of these being the PCGS MS63 from the Green Pond collection that Heritage sold in 2004.
After the heady prices that the preceding four coins bring, this 1843-D will not seem like anything special but I feel it is one of the most cosmetically appealing coins in this collection and it is a true rarity in this grade.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection. This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
VERY RARE UNCIRCULATED 1843-D LARGE MINTMARK 1843-D NGC MS61. Large mintmark. Variety 4-H. This is an important, naked-eye variety which is among the rarest issues in the quarter eagle set. Only 3,537 were struck in October, 1843.
Sharply struck and mostly lustrous with typical quality surfaces for the grade. There is a short, thin mark located at the left edge of the eye that serves as a useful pedigree marker for the future.
I would estimate that this variety is at least five to six times scarcer than the Small Mintmark. It is now recognized by both PCGS and NGC and is included in expanded quarter eagles sets by a number of Dahlonega specialists. To the best of my knowledge there are only two that have been graded Uncirculated by the services: the Bass II: 349 coin (graded MS61 by PCGS) and the Duke’s Creek example offered here. While it is not likely that this piece will command a substantial premium over the more common Small Mintmark, it certainly offers the value-conscious collector an interesting opportunity to obtain a very rare coin.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection.
THE FINEST KNOWN 1844-D QUARTER EAGLE 1844-D NGC MS63. Variety 5-I. Reverse of 1844-45. Easily identifiable by the lack of feathers entering the opening of the mintmark as on the other variety of this year. This is the scarcer of the two varieties.
This is among the more visually appealing quarter eagles in the Duke’s Creek collection. Some examples of this date are found with weak strikes. This is not the case on this coin as it shows razor sharp detail at the centers and the borders. In fact, the hair detail above the ear and around the face of Liberty is almost complete, making this an unusual and desirable piece. The surfaces are exceptional as well with the only describable mark being a tiny nick on the reverse above the top arrowhead. The obverse is somewhat reflective at the center and it is framed by a frosty texture; the reverse is a bit more evenly frosty in texture. Both sides have attractive golden centers that are contrasted by deeper khaki hues at the edges.
The 1844-D is one of the three most common Dahlonega quarter eagles in higher grades. Of the 200+ pieces known, as many as a dozen Uncirculated pieces exist and this includes at least four distinct pieces that have been graded MS63 by one (or in some cases both) of the major services. The all-time auction record for the date is held by the Pittman: 1748 coin which sold for a staggering $30,800 as a raw coin back in 1998.
The Duke’s Creek example is listed as the finest known 1844-D quarter eagle in my Condition Census and I still have not seen it’s equal.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Georgia collection, Hancock and Harwell, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1313 ($4,400), Hancock and Harwell, Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection. The plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
THE FINEST KNOWN 1845-D: EX BASS 1845-D NGC MS63. Variety 6-I. Reverse of 1844. The only variety currently known for this year.
Production of quarter eagles remained relatively high in the middle years of this decade. Just under 20,000 1845-D were struck of which around 200 are known today. I rank the 1845-D as the 14th of 20 issues in terms of its overall rarity but it jumps to the 11th spot in high grades. There are around three dozen known in AU but the 1845-D becomes extremely rare in properly graded Uncirculated. In fact, I am aware of only three Uncirculated pieces: the Duke’s Creek coin, the Green Pond: 1021 coin (graded MS62 by PCGS when it was last sold by Heritage in the January 2004 FUN auction) and the Chestatee: 7643 coin (graded MS62 by PCGS) that is now owned by a Kansas specialist.
This beautiful piece is characterized by soft yellow gold color atop clean, lustrous surfaces. It shows a typical strike for the date with some weakness at the centers; the borders are fully detailed. The surfaces show no marks of significance.
When last offered in the Bass sale in October 1999, this piece set an all-time auction record for the date, bringing $26,450. It will be interesting to see what it realizes today.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection via Hancock and Harwell, Bowers and Merena 10/99: 376 ($26,450), Harry Bass collection, Superior 1975 ANA: 376.
THE FINEST KNOWN 1846-D NORMAL MINTMARK 1846-D NGC MS63. Variety 7-K. This is actually a very late die state of the rare and popular 1846-D/D but with just the slightest amount of the errant mintmark showing below strong magnification. The obverse is actually a somewhat early state with repunching on the lower loop of the 8.
Nicely struck for the issue with just some minor weakness seen at the centers. The surfaces are extremely clean with no deep or detracting marks. The luster is semi-granular in texture with some semi-prooflike flash seen in the fields. Both the obverse and reverse have toned to a medium golden-orange shade which is slightly deeper about the periphery than at the centers.
The 1846-D quarter eagle has a similar mintage to the 1845-D but it is slightly more available. In Uncirculated, the 1846-D is very rare with probably no more than half dozen or so pieces known. NGC has actually graded a single example higher than MS63 (the Green Pond coin, which is now in an MS64 holder, was in a PCGS MS62 holder when it was sold by Heritage in January 2004) but I feel that the Duke’s Creek example is the finest known. The Green Pond coin sold for $18,400 and that figure appears to be the current auction record for an 1846-D quarter eagle. It will be interesting to see what the Duke’s Creek example brings when it is sold tonight.
One last note…this coin has been together with the MS63 1844-D quarter eagle above since the early 1980’s. It would be nice if they could be kept together by a Dahlonega collector.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Georgia collection, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1315 ($8,250), Hancock and Harwell, Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection. This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
CONDITION CENSUS 1846-D/D 1846-D/D NGC AU58. Variety 7-K. The “D Near D” variety. Early die state with the mintmark widely repunched to the left. Reverse cracks as described in the Winter book.
Lightly worn with deep green-gold and steel color, in slightly different hues, on the obverse and the reverse. The strike shows some weakness, as always seen on this variety, with most of this located on the eagle’s legs and wings. Some luster can be seen in the protected areas and the surfaces are very clean for the grade.
This variety has been actively collected by Dahlonega specialists for at least a decade. It is recognized by both major services and it generally commands a significant premium over a normal mintmark. The 1846-D/D quarter eagle is unique in Uncirculated with the single piece known an MS61 graded by PCGS which is ex: Bass II: 383. I am aware of around three or four pieces that grade AU58.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection.
THE SINGLE FINEST KNOWN DAHLONEGA QUARTER EAGLE OF ANY DATE 1847-D NGC MS65. Variety 9-M. The only variety of the year. Intermediate die state with the 847 in the date lightly repunched at their bases.
In 2003, I wrote the following about this coin: “There are currently no Dahlonega quarter eagles that have been graded MS65 by PCGS or NGC. If one does achieve this coveted level, it will probably be the 1847-D in the Duke’s Creek collection.” Bang the drums, blow the trumpets…NGC has graded the Duke’s Creek 1847-D quarter eagle MS65.
The 1847-D is generally one of the best produced quarter eagles from this mint. The strike tends to be sharp and, for some reason, there are more pieces known with exceptional color than for any other date in this series. Even by these standards, this coin stands above any other Dahlonega quarter eagle that I have seen. The surfaces are nearly flawless and the strike is as sharp as one would expect to see on a Philadelphia coin of this era. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the rich coloration which is a vivid deep gold with strong flashes of rose at the left reverse border. The eye appeal can really only be appreciated by a viewing in person.
This is the first public auction appearance of this coin. It initially appeared on the market in the late 1980’s and it has quietly resided in private collections since then. I would urge the advanced collector who truly wants “the best” to seriously pursue the Duke’s Creek 1847-D as it is very likely the single finest known quarter eagle of any date from this mint.
As a basis of comparison, the second finest known 1847-D is a very nice PCGS MS64 that was sold by Heritage in the Green Pond collection as lot 1024 where it brought $39,100. As one of only two certified MS65’s of any date (the other is an 1851-D which is offered later in this sale), this coin should certainly be worth considerably more and it may set an auction record for any Dahlonega quarter eagle.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection. This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
AN MS62 EXAMPLE OF THE 1848-D QUARTER EAGLE 1848-D NGC MS62. Variety 10-M. Reverse of 1847. This is the more common of the two varieties known for the year.
Very sharply struck with choice surfaces and medium to deep orange-gold color on the obverse and the reverse. This is another issue that tends to come with comparatively good eye-appeal, making it an excellent candidate for a type set.
In 1848, the Dahlonega mint produced 13,771 quarter eagles. There are around 200 known with close to three quarters of these in the VF to EF range. AU’s are scarce, although they are more available than most Dahlonega quarter eagles of this era. There are as many as a dozen known in Uncirculated with many of these in the MS60 to MS61 range. The best example I have seen is the Green Pond: 1026 coin which sold for $23,575 in Heritage’s January 2004 auction. In the Condition Census, I list the Duke’s Creek coin as the second finest known and it is clearly nicer than the other pieces that I have seen graded MS62 by NGC and PCGS.
This would make an ideal coin for the collector seeking a single higher grade, well-produced Dahlonega quarter eagle for a type set.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Bowers and Merena 1/92: 1359 ($13,200).
POSSIBLE FINEST KNOWN 1849-D QUARTER EAGLE 1849-D NGC MS62. Variety 12-M. Low date with the 1 very close to the denticles. This is the rarer of the two varieties of this year by a substantial margin.
The 1849-D is easily the scarcest of the late 1840’s quarter eagles from this mint. There were 10,945 pieces struck of which 125-150 are believed to exist. It is the 10th rarest of 20 issues in the series in higher grades. I estimate that around three dozen are known in AU. I am aware of just four or five properly graded Uncirculated pieces of which the highest graded is MS62. The current NGC population of seven in this grade is extremely inflated on account of resubmissions.
This piece shows a typical strike for the date with some weakness seen on the forehead of Liberty; the reverse is sharp overall with good detail on the legs and wings. The surfaces are lustrous and show some scattered light ticks and a few faint hairlines (not from cleaning). The obverse shows golden-brown color while the reverse is a bit lighter with some bluish overtones. Overall, this is a pleasing coin for the grade and an example with much better eye appeal than usually seen on this underrated date.
This is the first auction appearance for this coin since 1984 and it will, no doubt, bring considerably more than the $5,500 that it sold for over two decades ago. In my Condition Census, I list this as the finest known 1849-D quarter eagle.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Georgia collection, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1318 ($5,500), Hancock and Harwell, Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection, Stack’s 12/78: 97 ($3,800), Bareford collection, Mehl 3/48: 3581, Renz collection. This is the plate coin in the first edition of my book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
NICE UNCIRCULATED 1850-D QUARTER EAGLE 1850-D NGC MS61. Variety 13-M. The only known die variety of this year. Struck from lightly clashed dies with a few clashmarks seen over the eagle’s right shoulder.
The obverse shows a nice amount of detail while the reverse has some minor weakness on the eagle’s left leg and right claw. There are just a few small, well-scattered marks on the surfaces and a few hairlines which are not the result of cleaning. For the sake of future pedigree information we feel compelled to mention a few very small abrasions over the tip if the coronet on the obverse. Both sides are toned in medium green-gold shades with some tinges of orange-gold on the high spots.
There were 12.148 examples struck of which an estimated 125-150 are known. This is the twelfth rarest of twenty Dahlonega quarter eagles in higher grades. Three to four dozen exist in AU and another four to six are known in Uncirculated. The NGC population figure is extremely distorted as the result of a naughty coin dealer (you know who you are…) resubmitting an example and then “forgetting” to turn in the old inserts. NGC currently shows twelve graded in MS61 but the actual number of distinct coins is probably more in the area of three or four. The present example is clearly among the finest known but it is not listed in the current Condition Census.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection.
INCOMPARABLE NGC MS65 1851-D: THE FINEST KNOWN OF THIS DATE AND THE SECOND FINEST DAHLONEGA QUARTER EAGLE KNOWN TO ME 1851-D NGC MS65. Variety 14-M. The only variety known of this year.
As a testament to the Duke’s Creek collection, consider this fact: there are only two Dahlonega quarter eagles of any date that have ever been graded MS65 by one of the major services. Both of them are in this sale and they are clearly the two best Dahlonega quarter eagles that I have ever seen.
The obverse is far better struck than on most 1851-D quarter eagles while the reverse has some weakness on the eagle’s left leg and right claw. The surfaces are extremely clean with no abrasions worthy of discussion while the luster is very frosty and far better than on any other example of this date of which I have seen. Perhaps the best feature, though, is the rich orange-gold color with some steel-blue overtones seen on the high spots. As one would expect from a Dahlonega quarter eagle accorded this mind-boggling grade, the eye appeal is really quite spectacular, especially for an issue that is generally not seen with a good overall look.
The 1851-D is the eighth rarest Dahlonega quarter eagle in high grades. There were 11,264 struck and an estimated 100-110 are known today. I am aware of exactly five Uncirculated and the second best is a PCGS MS62 in a Kansas collection that was once a duplicate in the Duke’s Creek collection.
If I was forced to choose between the 1847-D and the 1851-D quarter eagles in this sale I would probably pick the 1847-D as I like its appearance more. But, the 1851-D is a far rarer coin and it so far better than any other piece from the 1850’s that perhaps the true best choice would be to buy them both!
IMPORTANT FINEST KNOWN 1852-D QUARTER EAGLE GRADED MS64 BY NGC 1852-D NGC MS64. Variety 15-M. The only variety of the year. Very early die state with the 1 in the date repunched at it base.
Mintage figures for Dahlonega quarter eagles begin to drop precipitously with this issue and only 4,078 were produced in 1852. From this year through 1856, the Dahlonega quarter eagles are all quite rare and some, like the 1855-D and 1856-D, are very rare. The 1852-D is tied for the fifth rarest issue in the series in terms of overall rarity and it is the seventh rarest in high grades. Around twenty exist in AU and another six or so in Uncirculated. The Duke’s Creek collection specimen is far and away the finest known with the next best being a trio of MS62’s. One of these is in a Kansas collection and is ex: Heritage 1999 FUN: 7651 ($28,750), another is the Green Pond coin which Heritage sold as Lot 1030 in the 2004 FUN sale (where it realized $25,875) and the 2004 ANA: 7146 coin from the Harold Anderson collection that brought $28,175.
The Duke’s Creek specimen is wonderfully struck for the issue with uncommonly strong details seen at the centers; some minor weakness, as always, exists on the denticles. The surfaces are very clean with the only mark of note being a thin vertical abrasion behind Liberty’s hair bun. Both the obverse and reverse are very frosty with medium orange-gold and greenish color. This is a lovely coin for the grade and it represents the ultimate in quality for the date.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection via Winthrop Carner, Superior 5/90: 5429 ($27,500). This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
VERY RARE AND UNDERRATED UNCIRCULATED 1853-D 1853-D NGC MS62. Variety 16-M. The only variety of the year. The reverse die is the same as seen on all quarter eagles struck at Dahlonega from 1847 through 1859.
An average quality for strike for the date with some weakness seen on the curls around the face and on the reverse at the eagle’s left leg and right claw. The surfaces are somewhat grainy in texture as is common for the issue and a good deal of mint luster clings to lightly marked fields. There is one small mark at the base of Liberty’s neck while the reverse is quite clean. Both sides show orange-gold toning with rich blue shades on the high spots.
Despite a very low mintage figure of 3.178 the 1853-D is overshadowed by the 1854-D, 1855-D and 1856-D quarter eagles. Fewer than 100 examples of the 1853-D are known and the average specimen is a well-worn VF or EF with poor eye appeal. There are fewer than two dozen known in AU and five or six in Uncirculated. There are a total of three graded in MS62 between the two services but I am aware of just two of which this piece is clearly the finest. This exact coin is listed in my Condition Census as the finest 1853-D quarter eagle and I still have yet to see its equal. Another extremely important coin. It is interesting to note that this piece sold for nearly $20,000 all the way back in 1985; a time when you could buy some serious Dahlonega coins for this sum and have quite a bit of money left over.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Mid American 5/85: 1275 ($18,150), Jasper Robertson. The plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
INCREDIBLE NGC MS64 1854-D QUARTER EAGLE— EASILY THE FINEST KNOWN EXAMPLE OF THIS RARITY 1854-D NGC MS64. Variety 17-M. The only variety of the year. Easily identifiable by a number of thin diagonal die lines near the date and the last star. Struck from lightly clashed dies.
This is a remarkable coin that was discovered by dealer Winthrop Carner at a small coin show in Georgia in 1996. It was sold to Paul Nugget who, in turn, sold it to collector William Miller. It entered the Duke’s Creek collection in 1999. It is easily the finest known 1854-D and it remains a coin that is considerably better than any other 1854-D that I have seen or heard of.
The strike is extremely sharp for the date with all of the details showing above-average clarity with the exception of the BE in LIBERTY and the corresponding area on the reverse. The denticles on both sides show some weakness as well and this is diagnostic to the issue. The surfaces are extremely clean with just a small mint-made planchet defect on the jaw of Liberty worthy of description. The luster is very frosty and there is a slightly prooflike finish seen in the fields which is far different from the typical dull, grainy texture on this issue. Both sides glow with a medium green-gold color and this coloration appears to be original and untampered with. The eye appeal of this coin is truly exceptional for the date.
Only 1,760 examples were struck. The rarity of the 1854-D has been exaggerated in the past but it is clearly a rarer coin than its more famous cousin, the 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece. Around 65-75 of the quarter eagles are known with a dozen or so in properly graded AU and another six or so in Uncirculated. In my Condition Census for the date, I listed the Duke’s Creek coin as the finest known by a large margin. Interestingly, at one time the Duke’s Creek collection contained two Uncirculated examples of this date. The lower quality duplicate, graded MS60 by PCGS, was last offered by Heritage as Lot 7856 in the 1999 ANA sale.
When this date was last sold at auction by Heritage in 1999 it brought $63,250. At that time it was very conservatively graded MS62 by PCGS. Today, with the NGC grade more in line with contemporary standards and with the market far more appreciative of exceptional one-of-a-kind coins, is possible that this piece could bring close to six-figures.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Heritage 2/99: 6177 ($63,250), William Miller collection, Paul Nugget/Spectrum Numismatics, Winthrop Carner.
VERY RARE UNCIRCULATED 1855-D QUARTER EAGLE 1855-D NGC MS61. Variety 18-M. only variety known of this year.
While not as distinctive in appearance as the 1856-D quarter eagle, the 1855-D is an issue with a “look” that is easily recognizable to even the casual collector of Dahlonega gold coinage. This piece has a strike that is typical for the issue with a good deal of weakness seen on the borders. Many of the denticles are not fully formed on both sides. The centers are actually relatively well defined with some good individual detail seen on the hair and feathers. The surfaces have a few light, scattered marks which are consistent with the grade. The most recognizable is a pinscratch located to the east of star eight. Two small raised die lumps on the reverse above the olive leaves are diagnostic and attest to the authenticity of this coin. Both sides display medium golden color with some bluish-gold undertones. This is a very pleasing example of a date not known for its eye appeal.
Only 1,123 were made. At one point I felt that the 1855-D quarter eagle was the rarest Dahlonega gold coin but I now feel this honor should be given to the 1856-D quarter eagle. That said, this is still a rare coin in all grades and a very rare one in AU or better. There are four to five dozen pieces known with perhaps a dozen in AU. I do not feel that there are more than two or three truly Uncirculated pieces known but the two major services have seen fit to encapsulate a few in MS60 and MS61 that, in my opinion, are not really “new.” I have regarded the Duke’s Creek specimen to be Uncirculated since I first saw it back in the mid-1980’s and in my Condition Census it is listed as the second finest known, trailing only the example in the Smithsonian that is originally from the Lilly collection.
In January 2004 Heritage sold a PCGS MS60 example of this issue as part of the Green Pond collection for $43,700. The Duke’s Creek collection coin, in my opinion, is much nicer and it should certainly realize a higher price.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Hancock and Harwell, Georgia collection, Hancock and Harwell, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1324 ($9,075), Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection, Hancock and Harwell, Bowers and Ruddy 10/77: 1548, Lamborn (“Fairfield”) collection. This is the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
A CONDITION CENSUS EXAMPLE OF THE VERY RARE 1856-D QUARTER EAGLE 1856-D NGC MS61. Variety 19-M. The only variety of this year.
The 1856-D quarter eagle is among the most numismatically significant issues from this mint. It is the only Dahlonega gold coin ever produced with an original mintage figure of fewer than 1,000 and it is the single rarest issue from this mint in terms of the total number known to exist in all grades. It is also an issue that is notorious for being amongst the most poorly produced United States gold coins of any era.
Virtually every known 1856-D has a flat appearance with a somewhat concave “look.” For collectors who are not familiar with this issue, most coins, even if they are original, seem cleaned. I consider myself to be a pretty good grader of Dahlonega gold and I still have trouble accurately grading many 1856-D quarter eagles.
The present example shows a slightly better than average strike. The denticles on both sides are much more fully formed than usual while the wings and the reverse legend are fairly bold as well. On the obverse, there is decided weakness on the curls around the face and below the ear of Liberty. This weakness extends to the center of the reverse which has a somewhat sunken appearance. The surfaces show some mint-made roughness and there is a small spot below the eagle’s beak. Both sides have a slight amount of luster and are overlaid with lemon-gold hues which are even and consistent.
Of the 874 pieces produced it seems unlikely that more than 50 are known. This includes many unattractive lower grade pieces. There are around ten known in AU as well as a few with claims to a Mint State grade. As mentioned above, this is an incredibly hard issue to grade and a piece that one expert calls MS61 might be regarded by another as AU55.
In the Green Pond sale, a PCGS MS60 example of this date sold for a record price of $69,000. I can not recall another 1856-D quarter eagle graded Uncirculated by either service having been available since then.
The Duke’s Creek example is certainly one of the better 1856-D quarter eagles I have seen and in my most recent Condition Census I listed it as the fifth finest known. This is an important coin and it is certainly one of the finer pieces currently available to collectors.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Heritage 1999 FUN: 7657 ($44,850), Leon Farmer collection, Bowers and Merena 11/93: 1266, Heritage 1993 ANA: 5550.
ONE OF THE FINEST KNOWN 1857-D QUARTER EAGLES: GRADED MS62 BY NGC 1857-D NGC MS62. Variety 20-M. Late die state with a number of cracks through the date and the surrounding stars.
Struck in rich orange-gold and well struck, as is usually the case for this date, with a very sharply defined central obverse; the reverse has some minor weakness on the legs and claws. Both sides show rich grainy luster and are lightly marked. A small vertical nick in front of the tip of Liberty’s nose serves as ready identification.
The 1857-D quarter eagle is a curious issue. It has a very low mintage of just 2,364 and it is a fairly scarce coin in terms of overall rarity with around 110-130 pieces known. Surprisingly, a high percentage of these grade better than EF45 and this suggests that a hoard may have existed at one time. I believe that there are around a dozen or so known in Uncirculated with most of these in the MS60 to MS61 range. NGC shows a current population of three in MS62 and just one better. I regard the Duke’s Creek specimen to be among the finest known and I ranked it #1 in my most recent Condition census listing in 2003. At one time the Duke’s Creek collection contained what I believe to be two of the finest known 1857-D quarter eagles: the present example and a piece now owned by a Kansas collector (and in a PCGS MS63 holder) that was sold by Heritage as Lot 7960 in the 1999 ANA auction.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Mid American 5/86: 1869, George Elliott collection, Hancock and Harwell, Stack’s Auction ’84: 1326, Hancock and Harwell, Dr. Arthur Montgomery collection. This was the plate coin in the first edition of Doug Winter’s book “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861.”
THE DUKE’S CREEK-FAIRFIELD EXAMPLE OF THE 1859-D QUARTER EAGLE 1859-D NGC MS62. Variety 21-M. The only variety of the year. This is the final use of the “M” reverse which was first employed back in 1847.
An average strike for the issue with some weakness seen on the curls along the face of Liberty as well as on the legs and right claw of the eagle. There are very few marks visible on the surfaces although a small, well-hidden mint-made lamination can be seen at 11:00 on the obverse. The fields are somewhat prooflike; an usual feature on a date that is not known for displaying good luster. Both sides are richly toned in medium to deep orange-gold hues. This is a lovely example of this popular issue and it is very possibly the finest known.
The 1859-D is the final quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint. There were 2,244 struck of which an estimated 120-140 are known today. This date does not appear to have circulated as extensively as the issues from the 1840’s and it is almost never seen below EF. It is scarce in the higher AU grades and very rare in Uncirculated with around six to eight known which qualify by today’s standards. I am personally aware of three that have been graded MS62 by one of the major services and this includes the Green Pond: 1036 coin which realized a healthy $34,500 when it was sold by Heritage in January 2004.
Ex: Duke’s Creek collection, Hancock and Harwell, Leon Farmer collection, Bowers and Ruddy 10/77: 1564, Lamborn (“Fairfield”) collection.