As a leader in the area of rare United States gold, I get to handle some pretty interesting coins on a regular basis. But every now and then there is a piece that comes into my inventory that is so truly exceptional that it gives me pause and makes consider keeping it instead of selling it. The most recent of these was an 1841-D quarter eagle graded MS63 by PCGS that is not only the finest known example of the date but one of the most aesthetically attractive Dahlonega gold coins of any date or denomination that I have seen. I rank the 1841-D as the fifth rarest of the twenty quarter eagles produced at this mint. There were a total of 4,164 struck of which an estimated 75-100 exist. When available, the typical 1841-D grades VF to EF and is characterized by poor eye appeal and extensively abraded surfaces. There are probably fewer than fifteen properly graded AU’s known as well as four in Uncirculated.
The four Uncirculated examples are as follows:
1. Kansas Collection, ex: Doug Winter, Wexford Collection, Doug Winter, Heritage 1/04: 1017 ($40,250), Green Pond Collection, Doug Winter, Bowers and Merena 11/98: 2076 ($46,000; as PCGS MS62), Heritage 2/90: 1264 ($15,000), Vintage Auctions 8/89: 286 (unsold), David Akers’ session of Auction ’89: 859 ($22,000). Graded MS63 by PCGS.
2. Private collection, ex: Heritage 4/06: 1496 ($46,000), Duke’s Creek Collection (as PCGS MS62), Hancock and Harwell, William Miller collection, Heritage 1993 ANA: 5508 ($25,300). Graded MS63 by NGC.
3. Georgia Collection, ex: Larry Jackson, David Akers 5/98: 1735 ($35,200), John Pittman collection, Stack’s 10/60: 3192 ($270), Milton Holmes collection. Graded MS61 by NGC.
4. Kansas Collection (duplicate), ex: Doug Winter 4/00, Mark Hurst collection, Heritage 1999 FUN: 7627 ($21,850; as PCGS AU58), North Georgia Collection, Stack’s 10/94: 867 ($22,000), James Stack Collection. Graded MS60 by NGC.
As you can tell from this list, I have had the good fortune to handle two of the four Uncirculated 1841-D quarter eagles and I have handled the finest known on three different occasions.
Let’s take a look at the coin itself. Here is a superb quality photo of the finest known 1841-D quarter eagle. Study the obverse and reverse for a few moments and then let me take you on a “tour” of it and explain why I think it is such a great piece.
What grabs me first about this coin is its coloration. You will note that the obverse and reverse both show deep brownish-gold coloration. If you ever wondered what exactly does a 160+ year old gold coin with completely original color look like, the answer is “like this.”
You will also note a bit of light haze on the surfaces. “Haze” often has the connotation of a coin having had a chemical applied to its surfaces in order to hide hairlines but on this coin, the haze comes from the way that it had been stored in the past; probably in an old coin cabinet or in a manila coin envelope. Before the era of extensive coin doctoring it was not uncommon to see choice, high quality gold coins with this sort of natural haze on the surfaces.
Next, look at the strike. The 1841-D quarter eagle is generally seen with a pretty good strike but this example was absolutely hammered with complete details on both the obverse and the reverse. If anyone doubts that the Dahlonega mint was capable of producing a product on the par with the Philadelphia mint from time to time, take a look at this coin and re-think your answer.
You will probably also note a thin, winding die crack on the obverse and a major bisecting crack on the reverse. This is the late die state of Winter Variety 2-C.
The depth of the coloration makes it hard to see the luster in its entirety but it is abundant. The texture is frosty and semi-prooflike, the blending of which creates a really unique look that I have not seen on more than a handful of Dahlonega gold coins.
The surfaces show a few light marks (mostly in the right obverse field) but they are very clean. When comparing this coin to the few MS63 and better Dahlonega quarter eagles that exist, I would certainly call this 1841-D a very high end example and I think it has claims to an MS64 grade.
In my experience, quarter eagles are among the hardest of the four denominations produced at this mint to find in high grade and it is exceptionally hard to find any coins that grade MS63 or better. I can only think of one true Gem Dahlonega quarter eagle (the Duke’s Creek 1847-D that was graded MS65 by NGC) and probably not more than three to five single coins that, by my standards, grade MS64.
If you are collecting Dahlonega quarter eagles by date or if you are a type collector looking for a single very high grade piece, my advice is to be aggressive on the very rare occasions that a coin like this 1841-D become available. Many years may pass before a comparable—or better—piece become available again.