In the first installment of this multi-part feature, I discussed some of the gold dollar issues that are rarely seen with good overall eye appeal. In this, the second part, I am going to look at quarter eagles that do not generally come with good eye appeal. Note that I said "good eye appeal." This doesn't mean that I'm focusing on the rarest dates in the series. Obviously, issues like the 1841 and the 1854-S are very rare in all grades and rarer still with good eye appeal. But that's not my emphasis here. Rather, I am interested in coins that while scarce or even rare based on their overall availability, are especially rare with choice, original surfaces.
As a rule, most pre-Classic Head quarter eagles are scarce to rare in all grades and harder still to find with good eye appeal. One issue that comes to mind as a coin that is just about never seen with good eye appeal is the 1796 With Stars. As you would suppose from a coin with just 432 struck, it is a rarity in all grades. But what most people do not realize is that nearly all survivors are either unoriginal and unappealing or they show multiple planchet imperfections as on many other of the gold issues produced during this year.
The last nice 1796 With Stars to be offered for sale was Stack's-Bowers 2011 ANA: 7593, graded MS63* by NGC, that sold for $287,500. It was earlier sold as Lot 1791 in the Stack's 5/99 auction and was part of the fabulous specialized collection of 1796 coinage assembled by John Whitney Walter. But the best 1796 With Stars of them all is the incredible Gem (NGC MS65) from the Byron Reed collection that was later sold for $1,006,250 in the Heritage 1/08 auction.
Other early date quarter eagles that I believe are very hard to find with good eye appeal include the 1797 and both varieties of 1806 (1806/4 and 1806/5).
The Classic Head quarter eagle that is hardest to find with good eye appeal is a date that will surprise you: the 1839. While not a really rare coin in terms of its overall number known, this issue is rare in properly graded About Uncirculated and very rare in Uncirculated. I have only seen three or four that I would call Uncirculated and none finer than MS62. The single best 1839 quarter eagle that I have seen was Bass II: 309, graded MS62 by PCGS, that sold for a reasonable $10,925.
In the long-lived Liberty Head quarter eagle series, there are numerous individual dates that are hard to find with good eye appeal. To make it a bit easier to analyze them, I'm going to break down the series into a mint-by-mint list.
There are many Philadelphia quarter eagles of this type that are hard to find with good eye appeal. The one that comes to mind as perhaps the most difficult is the 1842. With a mintage of just 2,823, you would expect this coin to have a strong degree of overall rarity. But it is far rarer in higher grades than most collectors realize. I can't recall having seen more than four or five in any grade that I thought were above-average quality and the finest of these, by a mile, is the Superior 9/99: 1863 coin, graded MS62 by PCGS, that I purchased out of this sale for $31,050. A few years later I handled this coin again and sold it to a Midwestern collector who still has it in his world-class set of quarter eagles.
Other dates from this mint that are very hard to find with good eye appeal include the 1844, 1848, 1864, 1865, 1869 and 1870.
There are a few Charlotte quarter eagles that stand out as being especially hard to locate with good eye appeal. In my experience, the ones that are the hardest to locate are due to being poorly made. These include the 1842-C (a date that is actually not poorly made but is, rather, generally seen well worn), 1844-C, 1846-C, 1852-C and 1856-C.
The 1842-C is one of my favorite Charlotte quarter eagles. It is reasonably well made but its lack of eye appeal tends to be as a result of the fact that it was an issue that was used extensively and not saved. There are two or three known in Uncirculated (the finest is the amazing Elrod MS65 coin that was last sold by Heritage in the 2/99 sale) and a small number in properly graded AU55 to AU58.
The other dates on this list are rare with good eye appeal because they were not well made. As an example, the 1856-C is nearly always seen on poor quality planchets and with grainy, unappealing surfaces. The 1846-C is another date in which is invariably the case although there are a few more decent-looking examples around than for the 1856-C.
Eye appeal is not as much of a problem with the quarter eagles from New Orleans is it is with the other branch mints. That said, there are still a few issues that are hard to locate with good appeal. One that comes to mind is the 1856-O.
This is a peculiar date. It is not rare from an absolute standpoint as there are as many as 200-300 known. For some reason, this issue is extremely hard to find with original color and surfaces and even a nice AU55 to AU58 is very hard to find. In Uncirculated, this date is extremely rare. There are at most four to five known and none are better than MS62. It has been years since an Uncirculated example has been available.
Other New Orleans quarter eagles that are hard to find with good eye appeal include the 1842-O, 1845-O and 1846-O.
There are a number of Dahlonega quarter eagles that are hard to find with good eye appeal. I would have to say, though, that one date is notorious for lacking eye appeal. In fact, this date is so rare with "eye appeal" that I'm not certain that a good-looking example exists. This date is the infamous 1865-D.
Only 874 examples were produced, making the 1856-D the only issue of any denomination from this mint with a mintage lower than 1,000. Due to improper preparation of this dies (and possibly the planchets as well) every known example of this date has an appearance that could be called--charitably--"odd." The strike is weak and blurry and the surfaces are often rough and full of raised defects. This makes the 1856-D an extremely hard issue to grade and a hard one for the non-specialist to appreciate.
Other Dahlonega quarter eagles that are very hard to locate with good eye appeal include the 1840-D, 1842-D, 1854-D, 1855-D and 1859-D.
The final mint that produced quarter eagles was San Francisco. The issues from this facility tend to be well made but there are a few that, for various reasons, are hard to locate with good eye appeal.
In my experience, the San Francisco quarter eagles that are hardest to locate with good eye appeal are the Civil War issues, especially the 1862-S and the 1863-S. There are a few plausible reasons for this. To begin with, they are low mintage coins. As with all gold coins of this era, they were melted in large quantities. And because of the fact that no quarter eagles were struck in San Francisco during 1864, the 1862-S and 1863-S seem to have circulated a little harder and a little longer than other dates of this era. Both of these dates are seldom found above AU55 and even when seen in comparatively high grades, the tend to exhibit bright, abraded surfaces. Choice, original pieces are rare.
Some of the other San Francisco quarter eagles that are not often seen with good eye appeal include the 1859-S, 1860-S and 1866-S.
There are dozens of date in the quarter eagle denomination that are hard to locate with good eye appeal. Not all of these are expensive and a few, the 1839 as an example, can be found in presentable grades for around $1,500.
For more information on quarter eagles with or without good eye appeal, please feel free to contact Doug Winter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.