1841 Liberty Quarter Eagle, PR53 (or AU53)
1841 $2 1/2 PR53 PCGS. Ex: Little Princess. The existence
and rarity of the 1841 Liberty quarter eagle was known almost since
the day it was struck. The first illustration of an 1841 appeared
in A Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations by Jacob
Reese Eckfeldt and William E. Dubois, published the following year.
This early acknowledgement of the 1841 quarter eagle by Mint
personnel is doubly important because its mintage was not recorded
in the 1841 Mint Report.
Controversial 19th Century Rarity
Fewer Than 20 Examples Extant
Present-day numismatists disagree about the true nature of the 1841 quarter eagle. Traditionally considered a proof-only date, several experts now believe both proof and business-strike examples were struck. In his 1975 Analysis of Auction Records, David Akers wrote:
"The 1841 is generally considered to be the most desirable of all Liberty Head quarter eagles. There is no official record of this date having been struck, but obviously a small number were minted. Most numismatists and cataloguers feel that this is a proof-only date and that all known specimens were originally struck in proof for inclusion in presentation sets. This seems unlikely to me and I am not convinced that the 1841 is a proof-only date. First of all, there are far too many specimens known when compared to other proof quarter eagles (or proof gold of any other denomination) of the same period. Less than five proofs are known of every other quarter eagle from 1840 to 1848, and yet I would estimate that at least 12 and possibly as many as 15 1841s are known. Only a few of them are clearly and unequivocally proofs, such as the coin in the Smithsonian Institution, the piece in Louis Eliasberg's collection, the Davis/Graves coin, and perhaps one or two others. Most of the others are well circulated and, in fact, grade from VG to EF. More importantly, the supposedly 'impaired proofs' just don't look like impaired proofs. Consider for example the Wolfson specimen, which was subsequently in the Shuford Sale and then in the 1974 NASC Sale conducted by the American Auction Association. Although barely circulated, it has almost no trace of a proof surface and few of the other characteristics of a genuine proof (such as a square edge), although it does appear to have been struck from the same dies as the proofs."
David Hall and Doug Winter also believe that the 1841 was struck in both proof and business-strike formats, based on the PCGS Coinfacts Photo Study of five 1841 quarter eagles that was conducted in late 2010-early 2011. Many expert numismatists, including Larry Stack, Steve Contursi, and Don Kagin, took part in the survey and agreed with the Hall-Akers-Winter conclusion that the 1841 was struck in both formats. Subsequently, PCGS began certifying 1841 quarter eagles as both proof and regular issues. Currently, PCGS lists nine coins as business-strikes, with just three in proof (2/14).
The verdict on the study was not unanimous, however. NGC continues to regard the 1841 as a proof-only issue, and has certified five examples in proof grades (2/14). Noted researcher John Dannreuther has observed that the reverse die used to strike 1841 quarter eagles was also used to coin proofs of later dates through 1846. This strongly suggests the status of these pieces as proofs. Ron Guth believes the unusually large mintage for a proof issue can be explained by the activities of Chief Coiner Franklin Peale, who may have struck examples clandestinely for sale to collectors. Craig Sholley contends all the 1841 quarter eagles were struck from proof-only dies, with the same orientation and characteristics, and thinks it is extremely unlikely that business-strikes were produced. The debate is seemingly far from settled.
Ironically, while the present coin is encapsulated in a PR53 PCGS holder, PCGS no longer lists it as such in their Population Report. Presumably, they now consider it a business-strike, as their Cert Verify feature lists it as AU53. The coin certainly displays many characteristics of a proof, with reflective prooflike surfaces, especially in the fields close to the devices. It is sharply struck with nearly full design details on both sides, except where obscured by light wear. The surfaces are light greenish-gold in color with a few minor hairlines and contact marks that explain the grade. Altogether, a pleasing example of this classic gold rarity. The 1841 Liberty quarter eagle is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Population: 0 in PR53, 3 finer (2/14).
Ex: Arthur Lamborn; Fairfield Collection; consigned by Lamborn to the Donald F. Herdman Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 12/1977), lot 6406; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2007), lot 4375, realized $109,250.
From the Collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25LZ, PCGS# 7867)
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