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Extremely Rare 1840 Proof Quarter Eagle, PR50
One of Only Two Pieces Known

1840 $2 1/2 PR50 PCGS. The year 1838 saw the introduction of the long-running Liberty Head design motif on the gold eagle, followed by the half eagle in 1839 and the quarter eagle in 1840. Each of these first-year Liberty Head issues is known in proof format, albeit in minuscule quantities. In the case of the 1838 eagle, there are only three separate coins known to exist, including one permanently off the market in the Smithsonian, and even the Eliasberg Collection lacked a proof example, "contrary to previous claims" (Garrett and Guth, 2006). (The other pieces are the Colonel Green-King Farouk-Pittman coin and the former Cardinal Spellman example; at least one of those pieces was made for presentation to the secretary of the Treasury.)
The first-year 1839 Liberty Head half eagle proofs exist to the extent of perhaps two or three specimens, and even the Smithsonian lacks an example. PCGS has certified a PR61 piece, another was in the Kosoff 1956 sale of the Thomas G. Melish Collection, and a third was listed in the 1954 Palace Collection sale of the King Farouk holdings.
Concerning the first-year 1840 quarter eagle in proof, the Smithsonian Collection specimen, a "glittering gem piece," is a PR65 Deep Cameo, according to Garrett and Guth. The authors note that "its Proof status is above reproach." Concerning the present piece, the gold pundits note that "PCGS has encapsulated one example of the date as PF-50. ... Researchers have mentioned one or two other examples, but the location or existence of these pieces is unknown today."
Obviously the certification by PCGS of this coin as a proof carries great weight, since the only other known specimen, in the Smithsonian, is not readily available for matching of diagnostics. (There are also no proofs of the issue certified at NGC.) While the piece clearly circulated for a short while to acquire 10 points of wear, there is to our eyes much remaining that leads us, along with the expert PCGS grader-authenticators, to also believe in this coin's proof status. The fields display more reflectivity than a similar prooflike business strike would show after handling. Deep orange-gold color is seen over each side. A few light handling marks are seen above the eagle on the reverse. The eagle's left (facing) leg shows notable softness, and is the only area on the coin that is weakly defined.
As a first-year proof of the new Liberty Head design, as the only example likely ever to be available in the numismatic marketplace, and as a coin that is perhaps an order of magnitude rarer than the famous proof-only "Little Princess" quarter eagles of 1841, this coin has to be among the most remarkable in this illustrious assemblage of top-quality pieces. (Registry values: P10) (PCGS# 7866)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
Jul-Aug, 2008
30th-3rd Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 4
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 530

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