Likely Finest Known BD-2 1802/1 Quarter Eagle, MS62
1802/1 $2 1/2 MS62 NGC. Ex: Ed Price Collection. Breen-6118,
BD-2, High R.5. Among the cleverest innovations from the early days
of the U.S. Mint was the dual use of reverse dies--lacking any
denomination stamped on them--for both silver dimes and gold
quarter eagles. The silver dimes premiered in 1796 with the Draped
Bust, Small Eagle design. Gold quarter eagles appeared that same
year, sporting the Capped Bust to Right obverse with a Heraldic
Eagle reverse. The dual-purpose dies were used from 1797 until
1807, the year that John Reich was first employed at the Mint as
assistant engraver. The first known use spans the 1797-98 period,
with the 1797 BD-1 quarter eagle and the 1798 JR-1 dime. In that
11-year period, there were seven reverse dies used for both
denominations, producing a total of 23 separate dime and quarter
die marriages--11 quarter eagles, 12 dimes.
Ex: Ed Price Collection
Famed collector Ed Price was fascinated by these dual-use dies and assembled complete die variety sets of both denominations--the only collector who has ever accomplished that goal. The reverse of the present BD-2 quarter eagle was also used to produce the BD-1 1804 13 Stars quarter eagle, and the 1802 JR-4 and 1804 13 Stars JR-1 dimes.
This quarter eagle variety--like all three for the year--is usually identified as an overdate, but Garrett and Guth comment that "the attribution is tentative and the '1,' which is barely visible (even under magnification), may be just an artifact." Bass and Dannreuther write, "The fact that there were no quarter eagles dated 1799, 1800, or 1801 should lend credence to the overdate status of the 1802, but most researchers have come to the conclusion that whatever is under the 2 is not the vestige of a 1."
Of the three 1802 quarter eagle die varieties, the BD-2 is by far the rarest (estimated 30-25 known). This piece is likely the finest known for the variety. On the obverse, the 2 in the date is smaller than the other digits, and it is about centered between the border and the bust. The short serif of the 1 nearly touches the hair. LIBERTY is entirely right of the cap, and its letters are spaced increasingly farther apart from left to right. The L is extremely close to the cap, and the I is slightly low. The evenly spaced stars are eight left, five right. Star 1 has two points close to the hair, while star 8 is much farther from the cap. Star 9 is closer to the Y than star 13 is to the bust. In this late die state, a tiny, dotlike die defect has formed on a back strand of Liberty's hair.
On the reverse, a leaf tip ends just right of the base of the I in AMERICA, without touching it. All three E's lack their upper left serifs. The bottom of the U virtually touches the arrows. The first S is low. The upright of E in STATES is over the space between clouds 4 and 5; the O in OF is completely over a cloud. The last A in AMERICA is away from both the nearby claw and leaf. The bases of ME are joined, and the RI are close.
As we wrote in the Ed Price Collection, this piece is "A wonderful example with brilliant green-gold luster on both sides. The obverse is frosty, and the reverse is satiny with reflective fields. A few scattered marks are entirely insignificant. Like most 1802 quarter eagles, the central obverse and reverse design elements are weak. This is possibly the only Mint State example of the variety known."
Ex: Bowers and Merena (11/2002), lot 3064; The Ed Price Collection of Early Dime and Quarter Eagle Varieties (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1457, which realized $40,250.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 4GB5, PCGS# 7650)
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