1798 Close Date, Four Berries Quarter Eagle
1798 $2 1/2 Close Date, Four Berries MS64 NGC. Breen-6116, BD-1,
High R.5. The U.S. Mint is recorded as having coined 1,094
quarter eagles in 1798, an amount that we notice is less than the
combined mintages for the first-year 1796 No Stars and With Stars
varieties -- put at 963 and 432 pieces, respectively, for a total
of 1,395 coins.
MS64, BD-1, High R.5
Lower Mintage Than the 1796 Two and a Half
The Mint in 1798 was largely occupied with making large cents and silver dollars, a plentiful mintage exceeding 1.84 million of the "old coppers" and more than 327,000 silver dollars. No half cents, half dimes, quarters, or half dollars were made in 1798, and the output of the rare 1798 eagle or ten dollar gold piece was nearly as skimpy as that of the quarter eagles, 1,742 pieces between the two Guide Book-listed varieties, BD-1 and BD-2.
The Mint in 1798 was in the slow process of changing over from the Small Eagle reverse to the Heraldic Eagle reverse, which in this year first showed up on the silver dime denomination, produced in the smallish extent of 27,550 pieces, and the aforementioned silver dollars.
The Mint in this year also continued to fiddle with the star arrangements on both obverse and reverse of various denominations, as witness the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle reverse dimes known with both 16 Star and 13 Star reverses, and the Draped Bust, Small Eagle reverse silver dollars, known with both 15 Star and 13 Star obverses.
Even after apparently settling on a 13 Star arrangement rather than continuing to add new stars for new states joining the Union, the Mint tried various combinations of stars in an apparent attempt to find the most aesthetically pleasing arrangements. Bass-Dannreuther note in
Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties that the 1798-dated quarter eagles are "exceptions to the 7+6 or 8+5 star arrangement for the obverse of most of this series," noting that the 1798 coins have their stars arranged 6 left, 7 right. These are the only U.S. coins of any denomination with that particular star arrangement.
Only two die varieties, each monogamously paired, are known for the 1798 quarter eagles. Even though we have added the "4 Berries" to the boldface lot subhead it is redundant, as the Close Date obverse appears only with the 4 Berries reverse, BD-1, while the Wide Date obverse is paired solely with the 5 Berries reverse, BD-2.
Bass-Dannreuther also note that the Close Date, 4 Berries is the first to use the "new style reverse with 'Thick Neck' with 13 stars around the eagle's head, six vertical stripes in the shield, and the punch by Robert Scot, the chief engraver at the time. This replaced the John Smith Gardner punch that was used for the previous dates and varieties."
The BD-1, rated high R.5, is estimated by Bass-Dannreuther to survive in the extent of 25 to 30 pieces in all grades, a variety that is "twice as rare as the other 1798 issue," which survives to the extent of 45-55 coins.
The present near-Gem NGC-graded piece is the sole example at that service, with three submissions in MS62 in second place. PCGS has seen three "certification events" in MS64, with two in MS65 the finest (11/11). The fields on this piece are bright and semiprooflike, the surfaces mostly yellow-gold with occasional dabs of reddish patina. The strike is sharp except in the immediate centers, where some vertical planchet adjustment marks appear.(Registry values: P9) (PCGS# 97649)
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