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1823/2 Capped Bust Quarter, B-1, PR64
1823/2 25C PR64 PCGS Secure. CAC. B-1, Unique as a Proof.
This remarkable Choice proof 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter displays
deeply reflective fields under vivid shades of sea-green,
cerulean-blue, gold, and lavender toning. The design elements are
sharply detailed, with rich, brilliant mint frost that creates a
noticeable cameo effect. The coin is perfectly centered, with sharp
dentilation around both sides. Only a few minor signs of contact
are evident. Outstanding eye appeal, unsurpassed rarity, and an
impeccable pedigree are in equal measure here.
Classic 19th Century Rarity, Ex: Newcomer-Hawn
Unique in Proof Format
Variety: This coin represents the B-1 variety, the only dies for the date. The obverse die is plainly overdated, the undertype 2 easily visible under the primary digit. The arrowheads and shafts are incomplete on the reverse, the only reverse die to show this feature. The cause of this incomplete detail was a deteriorating master hub, which had been created by John Reich in 1815 and used to sink all quarter dies since that time. The central talon on the right (facing) eagle's claw had broken off sometime earlier, as the damage is noted on several dies from this period. Aging Chief Engraver Robert Scot was apparently unable to produce a new master hub at this late stage of his career and just delivered the obviously incomplete dies for the quarter coinage in early February 1823. Scot also saved himself some work by overdating the leftover obverse die from 1822. These were the last quarter dies Scot engraved, as he passed away in early November at age 79. After his death, Christian Gobrecht used a hand graver to complete the reverse die, and it was used in later years to strike the 1824 B-1, 1825 B-1, and 1828 B-2 varieties. The obverse die was later overdated a second time and used to coin the famous 1827/3/2 quarters.
Population Data (5/14): PCGS has graded 17 business-strike 1823 Capped Bust quarters, the finest a single AU58 example. NGC has currently certified eight regular-issue examples, including two Mint State coins, one in MS61 and the other in MS62. The present PR64 PCGS-graded coin is the only proof example certified by either grading service.
Heritage Commentary: The 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter was a celebrated rarity in the 19th century. Its elusive nature was recognized by Joseph Mickley as early as 1858, when he wrote Dates of United States Coins and Their Degrees of Rarity. Mint records indicate 17,800 Capped Bust quarters were struck in 1823 in two deliveries, one of 1,800 pieces on February 3, and a larger delivery of 16,000 pieces on December 31. Curiously, there are no recorded deliveries of 1824-dated quarters, although an estimated 200-400 examples of the date survive today. Since only 30-40 examples of the 1823/2 are known, Steve Tompkins theorizes that the small February delivery comprised 1823/2-dated quarters, while the December 31 delivery was entirely quarters dated 1824 (actually, the 1824 issue is an overdate also, 1824/2). The 1823/2 quarters circulated extensively at the time of issue; most examples seen grade below the Fine level. Mint State coins are extremely rare and were unknown to most catalogers until recent times.
Unfortunately, there is no recorded mintage of proof coinage in 1823. Proofs were only produced to order in these early years, when an influential collector or government official with enough clout ordered a specific number of coins for some given purpose. The dies and planchets would then be polished and the specified number of coins struck on the medal press, receiving at least two blows to fully bring up the detail. No records were kept of which coins on a given day were struck in proof or business-strike format, just the final total of all coins produced. In some cases, proof restrikes of popular issues were struck from leftover dies many years after the original mintage took place.
In the case of the present coin, we know that it must have been struck close to the same time as the business strikes, if not on the same day, because the obverse die was overdated a few years later to strike the 1827/3/2 quarters. In all likelihood, this proof was struck at the same time as the business strikes for some unknown but important purpose. Walter Breen indicated that proof examples of all denominations struck in 1823 were at least reported in the literature, if not all confirmed. While it remains possible that a few complete proof sets were made, this seems unlikely.
In Early United States Quarters, Steve Tompkins supplied a detailed history of the present coin. It first appeared in J.N.T. Levick's collection sometime before 1864 and made its first auction appearance in lot 437 of the Fifth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1864):
"I believe this to be the finest known specimen of this very rare quarter; the surfaces has almost the brilliancy of a proof; the obverse is but slightly injured by circulation, and the reverse scarcely touched."
The lot realized an extremely high price of $120 to prominent coin dealer William Strobridge. It then passed through the collection of William Fewsmith and several unknown intermediaries before turning up in the possession of St. Louis coin dealer B.G. Johnson. B. Max Mehl detailed this part of the pedigree when he described the coin in his Golden Jubilee Sale (Jerome Kern and others) in 1950:
"1823 over '22 , as all are. The figure 2 plainly showing under the figure 3. Brilliant proof. Until some twenty odd years ago, there were no 1823 Quarter-Dollars known in better than good condition. Some three or four specimens in mint condition were discovered in Europe and then sold to various collectors here. I think I've seen all of them and I can unhesitatingly state that this is by far the superior of any. To give an accurate description of the coin, I would say that it is a brilliant proof, sharp, well struck with bold impression. The field just above the bust and below it has a tiny spot which is undoubtedly due to cabinet friction. It does not impair the appearance of the coin in the slightest degree. It is mentioned here only for the sake of accuracy.
"This coin also has a very interesting pedigree. The coin was discovered in England by the late B.G. Johnson of St. Louis. Upon his return to this country he sold it to Elmer S. Sears of Swansea, Massachusetts, who was then a dealer in fine coins only. He in turn sold it to Waldo Newcomer of Baltimore. When I had the honor of handling the American section of the Newcomer Collection in 1933, I sold this identical coin to A.J. Allen of New Jersey. When the Allen Collection was sold, I purchased it direct from the gentleman handling the collection and in turn sold it to George H. Hall, Pasadena, California. Mr. Kern obtained it from the Hall Collection. This is indeed the best pedigreed specimen of this great rarity, and while I never attribute a coin as the 'finest known,' I can certainly state that I have never seen nor do I know of a coin not even finer but even approaching this one in condition. It catalogs $1,000.00 in uncirculated. In proof it is worth much more."
The lot realized $1,050, apparently to F.S. Guggenheimer. A number of well-known collectors have owned this coin in recent years, including Texas supercollector Reed Hawn and overdate specialist Dr. Juan XII Suros (see provenance below for details).
Only a few United States coins can claim to be unique. The 1870-S three dollar gold piece, the 1870-S half dime, and the 1873-CC No Arrows dime are the only unique issues that come to mind. A few other issues, like the 1838 and 1839 Seated Liberty quarters are known to be unique in proof format, with a corresponding business-strike emission. This coin has much in common with those issues. While a small number of business-strike 1823/2 quarters do exist, auction records going back 150 years and modern population data all confirm this coin's unique status as the only proof example of this very rare date. In addition, none of the business-strike examples even approach the present coin in terms of technical quality and eye appeal. When Heritage offered the 1838 No Drapery proof quarter in January 2013, it realized $381,875. The proof 1839 No Drapery Seated Liberty quarter brought even more when we offered it in 2008, realizing a staggering $517,500. The present offering gives the advanced collector the same once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a unique proof specimen of this important early silver issue.
Provenance: Possibly J.N.T. Levick; Fifth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1864), lot 437, realized $120 to William Strobridge; William Fewsmith Collection (Ebenezer Locke Mason, 10/1870), lot 474, realized $38 to Edward Cogan; unknown intermediaries, variously rumored to be Adolph Weyl, Adolph Hess, and a British collector/dealer around 1895; Burdette G. Johnson; Elmer Sears; Waldo Newcomer; A.J. Allen; George H. Hall; Jerome Kern; Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 1407; F.S. Guggenheimer Collection (Stack's, 1/1953), lot 534; R.L. Miles; Miles Collection (Stack's, 4/1969), lot 893; H. Philip Speir; Speir Collection (Stack's, 3/1974), lot 16; Reed Hawn; Hawn Collection (Stack's, 3/1977), lot 272; Auction '80 (Stack's, 8/1980), lot 1176; Auction '86 (Stack's, 7/1986), lot 127; Auction '90 (Superior, 8/1990), lot 1071; Rare Coin Review 83 (Bowers and Merena, Spring 1991); Dr. Juan XII Suros; Suros Collection (Superior, 2/1999), lot 136; the present consignor. The plate coin for Early United States Quarters and Early Quarters of the United States Mint.. (NGC ID# 23S7, PCGS# 5368)
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