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Rare Mint State 1808 Quarter Eagle

1808 $2 1/2 MS61 NGC. Breen-6125, BD-1, R.4. The rarity of the 1808 quarter eagle is well known even to those who do not necessarily collect gold type coins. Struck in just this one year, only 2,710 pieces were minted and of that number it has been estimated that fewer than 2% exist today in all grades, with 35-40 pieces being a reasonable estimate of the surviving specimens. Breen speculates that the low survival rate may be due to the weak borders on all known coins which exposed them to undue wear. Every 1808 quarter eagle we have seen has had rim problems of some sort, probably due to the lack of raised detail evident around the margins. Also, all known examples show a die crack that extends from the cap through all six stars at the right.
Breen also points out that the date and letter punches used on the 1808 quarter eagle were reused on 1809 dimes. However, the bust and device punches were never reused. Typical for all of John Reich's designs, the 13th star is notched, a "signature" of the short-lived German immigrant-engraver. In an August 2001 Coin World article, Paul Gilkes gives a bit more background on Reich:

"Reich was a German immigrant who sold himself into indentured service to make his way to the United States during the Napoleonic Wars and was rescued to become the U.S. Mint's assistant engraver (1807 to 1817). He had been ordered by Mint Director Robert M. Patterson to execute improved designs for all denominations, according to Walter Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. The directive was an artistic insult to Scot, who was chief engraver at the time."

When located, the typical 1808 is usually VF-XF with AU pieces quite rare and desirable. Only a handful of strictly Mint State quarter eagles from this year exist today. This piece is typically struck on the reverse with some weakness evident on the tips of the eagle's wings. On the obverse, the stars on the left side are quite well defined, but those on the right side are weak, as usual. Lightly abraded, the most notable identifiers for pedigree purposes are two strike-throughs: one is straight and close to the O in OF, the other has a backward S-shape and is located to the left of AM in AMERICA. A pleasing, reddish tinted example of this major gold rarity. Census: 8 in 61, 7 finer (4/08).
Ex: Dr. Robert W. Dingle Collection (Heritage, 6/2001), lot 8829.(Registry values: P8) (NGC ID# BFVZ, PCGS# 7660)

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Auction Dates
May-Jun, 2008
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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