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Press Release - May 4, 2004
Heritage to offer Finest Known 1841 "Little Princess" Quarter Eagle at June Long Beach Platinum Night
Dallas, Texas: The finest known 1841 quarter eagle will be placed under the auction hammer at Heritage's Platinum Night session of the June Long Beach Signature Sale, June 2-5. Heritage is the official auctioneer of the Long Beach Coin Expo.
The coin is encapsulated as PR 65 Deep Cameo by NGC and described as follows:
- 1841 $2 1/2 PR65 Deep Cameo NGC. The mysterious "Little Princess" is, simply put, one of the rarest issues in over two centuries of United States gold coinage. Its unknown, but obviously tiny mintage was not recorded in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint and, according to many specialists, is comprised entirely of proof strikings in various states of preservation that were originally intended for inclusion in specimen sets. Others, such as David Akers, feel that the population of 15 to 17 survivors is too high in comparison to other proof Quarter Eagles from the decade as well as similarly dated gold proofs of other denominations, and that a few of the lower grade pieces may have been struck from the same dies, but under different circumstances. Writing in 1999, Mark Borckardt suggested that a few proofs may have been struck for specimen sets intended for collectors and dignitaries while others could have been produced for "presentation or some other purpose, perhaps for some long-forgotten ceremony. In 1841 the quarter eagle was the smallest gold coin produced by the United States (the gold dollar did not make its debut
until 1849). Thus, a civic, political, commercial, or other ceremony requiring gold coins as an honorarium or gift would find the quarter eagle to be convenient."
Although there were several offerings of this important rarity during the 19th century and a brief notation in Snowden's 1860 work A Description of Ancient and Modern Coins in the Cabinet Collection at the Mint of the United States, the numismatic community was relatively unaware of the 1841 Quarter Eagle until the Edgar H. Adams publication, first released in 1909, entitled Official Premium List of United States, Private, and Territorial Gold Coins, where the author noted that just two pieces were known. The first recorded use of the term "Little Princess" was 50 years ago in Stack's Davis/Graves Sale. A roster of known 1841 Quarter Eagles, largely the result of research by Walter Breen in Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, first published in 1988, is as follows:
- Smithsonian Collection. Placed in the Mint Cabinet in the year of issue.
- Eliasberg/Bass Collection. Formerly in such noted numismatic hands as Raymond, Newcomer, Green, and Boyd.
- Bass Collection. Acquired by Harry W. Bass, Jr. from World Wide Coins in 1974.
- Mitchelson/Connecticut State Library Collection. An impaired proof.
- Menjou Collection. Formerly belonging to Schermerhorn, Friedberg, and Graves.
- Norweb Collection. An impaired proof that realized $30,800 in 1988.
- Wolfson Collection. Later in the cabinets of Shuford and Herstal.
- Peters Auction. Sold by dealer Jess Peters at the 1973 ANA.
- Mid-American Auction. Later sold by Superior as part of the Heifetz Collection.
- Superior Auction. An XF specimen sold as lot 1345 of Auction '86.
- Stack Collection. Part of an important cabinet formed by James A. Stack, Sr. which was sold in 1994.
- Fairfield Collection. An XF specimen that has the distinction of being the Breen Encyclopedia plate coin.
- Dunham Collection. The publicity generated by this coin when it was sold by B. Max Mehl in 1941 secured the numismatic importance of the 1841.
- Herdman Collection. One wonders how many avocado ranchers (Mr. Herdman's occupation) could afford an 1841 Quarter Eagle in the 21st century.
- Empire Inventory. A "walk in" purchase in the heyday (early 1960's) of the Empire Coin Company.
- Robison Collection. Earlier in the Terrell Collection.
- Hydemann Collection. The lowest grade piece on the registry, just a Very Good.
The present coin is by far the finest certified, and is expected to realize over $250,000.
Images, descriptions, and prices realized are available in the Permanent Auction Archives at the Heritage website, www.HeritageCoin.com.