America's Forgotten Rarities: The 1842 Quarter Eagle

In the second part of this series on coins that I believe are truly rare but not fully appreciated I am turning my focus on an issue that is very interesting to me: the 1842 quarter eagle. 1842 is, in general, an interesting year for quarter eagles. Four mints produced these coins: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charlotte and Dahlonega. The mintage figures ranged from a low of 2,823 at Philadelphia to a high of 19,800 at New Orleans. With the exception of the 1842-O, all four are quite scarce in any grade and each is very rare in high grades.

Although it is not the most highly valued quarter eagle dated 1842 (that honor goes to the 1842-D), the 1842 is the rarest, both in terms of overall and high grade rarity. There are an estimated 35-45 known in all grades with most in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine range. I believe that there are six to eight in properly graded About Uncirculated and I think this date is unique in Uncirculated.

The most recent PCGS/NGC population figures show a combined total of fifty graded. This includes two in Uncirculated (more on these in a moment...) and eighteen in About Uncirculated. The population figures are, as usual, inflated, especially the AU coins listed by NGC.

This is generally a well made issue which shows good overall detail at the centers and borders. The luster tends to be semi-reflective but most 1842 quarter eagles are either worn to the point that they show no luster or they have been stripped and display little if any original surface. Most of the pieces I have seen have been abraded and at least a few are either damaged from having been scratched or show evidence of rim filing. The natural coloration is a bright yellow gold.

The finest known 1842 quarter eagle is a piece in a Midwestern collection that has been graded MS62 by PCGS. It first came to the market as Superior 9/99: 1863. I bought it for $31,050 and immediately sold it to a collector in Nevada. A few years later, when I handled the sale of his collection, I placed it privately with the Midwestern collection referenced above.

A few quick words about this PCGS MS62 1842 quarter eagle. I think this is one of the truly great Liberty Head quarter eagles of any date. No, its not a Gem. But it is so head and shoulders better than the next finest piece that it is an unbelievably important coin and certainly one of the less well-known but really significant pieces known from this era. Not to mention the fact that it is choice, original and very attractive as well.

There are two nice AU 1842 quarter eagles that come to mind. The first is ex Bass II: 340 where it was graded AU55 by PCGS and it sold for $13,800. I known that this coin subsequently upgraded to AU58 when it was sent to NGC; I am not aware what its current grade is. The other is ex Pittman II: 1736 where it was conservatively graded "XF" by David Akers. It sold for $12,100 and was later graded AU58 by NGC.

I believe that this date is extremely undervalued. The most recent Trends prices are $3,250 in EF40, $5,000 in EF45, $6,250 in AU50 and $10,000 in AU55. As befits a coin of this rarity in high grades, there is no published valuation over AU55.

A quick check of my records shows that I have handled a whopping three 1842 quarter eagles in the last five years with the most recent being a PCGS EF45 that I sold a few months ago to an advanced collector.

I doubt if this date will ever get the attention it deserves. Its a quarter eagle, its a Philadelphia issue and its too rare to ever promote. That said, the 1842 quarter eagle is a coin that I have great respect for.

1842 $2.50 PCGS EF40