Gem Mint State 1802 Quarter Eagle, BD-31802/1 $2 1/2 MS65 NGC. Breen-4, Breen-6118, Bass-3009, BD-3, R.5. There exist three known die combinations for the quarter eagles of 1802, and all share a common obverse die that is routinely called an overdate. However, its status as an overdated die is highly questionable. As John Dannreuther notes in Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties: "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 vestiges of a 1." Dannreuther continues: "Some have suggested the calling of this quarter eagle an overdate is due to the obvious 1802/1 half eagle--an analogy easily seen. A defective 2 punch or break is now considered the likely culprit for the '1' below the 2 in the date."
Among the three varieties of 1802 quarter eagles, the BD-3 variety is seen less often than BD-1, but much more often than BD-2. The reverse is easily recognized by two constant features, a vertical spike from the left corner of the shield to the ribbon above, intersecting the ribbon below the space between B and U in PLURIBUS, and also by clear recutting of star 1 in the constellation that shows nine distinct points, rather than the usual six points.
Like many of the Draped Bust quarter eagles, the reverse die used for this variety was also used to coin Draped Bust dimes, in this case both 1802 and 1803 dimes. This interdenominational use of reverse dies was a situation unique to the dimes and quarter eagles. There are no documented instances of eagles and half dollars sharing reverse dies, and of course, quarter dollars had the denomination incorporated as part of the design, thus could not be used for production of half eagles. In addition to its use for the BD-3 quarter eagles of 1802, this reverse was also used to produce 1802 JR-1 dimes and 1803 JR-1 dimes.
This example represents the usually seen die state with a short die crack from the right reverse border at 2 o'clock to the wing tip. The vertical die defect from the left corner of the shield is also described by Dannreuther as a die crack, although it appears to remain constant throughout the life of the reverse die for both quarter eagles and dimes, and may actually be a die scratch created by the engraver. The 1802 JR-1 dime is unique (or nearly so) with the crack at 2 o'clock evident on those known examples, while the 1803 JR-1 dime (also extremely rare) apparently has additional reverse cracks. A single 1802 BD-3 quarter eagle in the Smithsonian Institution does not have this die crack, according to Dannreuther, thus represents the initial use of this reverse die. Thus the emission sequence appears to be 1802 BD-3 quarter eagles first, 1802 JR-1 dimes second, and 1803 JR-1 dimes third, with the possibility of additional quarter eagles struck between the production of the 1802 and 1803 dimes.
Although all quarter eagles from 1796 (With Stars) through 1807 are considered a single design type, Draped Bust With Stars, with the Heraldic Eagle reverse, there are actually six different subtypes, highly unusual with only 13 known die marriages for this series. The subtypes include: the 1804 14 Stars reverse; 1796 with eight obverse stars on each side; 1797 with obverse stars arranged seven by six and with 16 reverse stars; 1798 with obverse stars arranged six by seven; 1802, 1804, and 1806/4, all with obverse stars arranged eight by five; and 1805, 1806/5, and 1807, all with seven by six obverse stars.
Current population data from NGC and PCGS indicate that this particular 1802 quarter eagle is one of just two MS65 examples certified, with none finer, and this assumes that the two pieces certified by NGC are different coins. Otherwise, this piece is the sole Gem example of the date that survives. It is fully lustrous with brilliant green-gold surfaces and deeply reflective mirrored fields. Both sides have a few insignificant abrasions that are of virtually no concern, given the age and beauty of this specimen. The central obverse and reverse have considerable weakness that is typical of the variety, although some specimens are more sharply struck. A trace of old lacquer remains on the reverse, just above the right wing tip. Coating a coin with lacquer was an old-time preservation method, and it can still be successfully removed with the proper procedures, although this should best be done by a specialist in numismatic conservation. The overall aesthetic appeal of this Gem is extremely high, and it is one of the finest pieces, if not the best, that still exists today.
From The Freedom Collection.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 4GB5, PCGS# 7650)
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