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1841 $2 1/2 PR65 Deep Cameo NGC. The mysterious "Little ...

2004 June Long Beach Signature Sale #349

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Auction Ended On: Jun 3, 2004
Item Activity: 10 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Long Beach, CA
Finest Certified 1841 "Little Princess" Quarter Eagle PR65 Deep Cameo
1841 $2 1/2 PR65 Deep Cameo NGC. The mysterious "Little Princess" is, simply put, one of the rarest issues in over two centuries of United States gold coinage. Its unknown, but obviously tiny mintage was not recorded in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint and, according to many specialists, is comprised entirely of proof strikings in various states of preservation that were originally intended for inclusion in specimen sets. Others, such as David Akers, have written that the population of 15 to 17 survivors is too high in comparison to other proof Quarter Eagles from the decade as well as similarly dated gold proofs of other denominations, and that a few of the lower grade pieces may have been struck from the same dies, but under different circumstances. Writing in 1999, Mark Borckardt suggested that a portion of the known pieces were issued for specimen sets intended for collectors and dignitaries while others could have been produced for "presentation or some other purpose, perhaps for some long-forgotten ceremony. In 1841 the quarter eagle was the smallest gold coin produced by the United States (the gold dollar did not make its debut until 1849). Thus, a civic, political, commercial, or other ceremony requiring gold coins as an honorarium or gift would find the quarter eagle to be convenient." Perhaps also, Mint officials wished to have a continuation of dates in the Quarter Eagle series and so a few clandestine pieces may have been struck strictly to serve this purpose.
Although there were several offerings of this important rarity during the 19th century and a brief notation in Snowden's 1860 work A Description of Ancient and Modern Coins in the Cabinet Collection at the Mint of the United States, the numismatic community was relatively unaware of the 1841 Quarter Eagle until the Edgar H. Adams publication, first released in 1909, entitled Official Premium List of United States, Private, and Territorial Gold Coins, where the author noted that just two pieces were known. The first recorded use of the term "Little Princess" was 50 years ago in Stack's Davis/Graves Sale. A roster of known 1841 Quarter Eagles, largely the result of research by Walter Breen in Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, first published in 1988, is as follows:

1) Smithsonian Collection. Placed in the Mint Cabinet in the year of issue.

2) Eliasberg/Bass Collection. Formerly in such noted numismatic hands as Raymond, Newcomer, Green, and Boyd. The coin was sold in a PR64 PCGS holder for $178,250 as lot 105 in the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection - Part III.

3) Bass Collection. Acquired by Harry W. Bass, Jr. from World Wide Coins in 1974. Certified PR60 by PCGS, this piece realized $115,000 as lot 335 of the Harry W. Bass Collection, Jr. Sale - Part II.

4) Mitchelson/Connecticut State Library Collection. An impaired proof.

5) Menjou Collection. Formerly belonging to Schermerhorn, Friedberg, Graves, and Pierce. Only a handful of rarities, including a set of $4 Stellas, was withheld from the Grant Pierce Collection sold by Stack's in 1965 and later offered in the 1976 ANA Sale. The 1841 Quarter Eagle appeared as lot 2787 where it fetched what was then a very impressive price of $41,000.

6) Norweb Collection. An impaired specimen that realized $30,800 in 1988.

7) Wolfson Collection. Later in the cabinets of Shuford and Herstal.

8) Peters Auction. Sold by dealer Jess Peters at the 1973 ANA.

9) Mid-American Auction. Later sold by Superior as part of the Heifetz Collection.

10) Superior Auction. An XF specimen sold as lot 1345 of Auction '86.

11) Stack Collection. Part of an important cabinet formed by James A. Stack, Sr. which was sold in 1994.

12) Fairfield Collection. An XF specimen that has the distinction of being the Breen Encyclopedia plate coin.

13) Dunham Collection. The publicity generated by this coin when it was sold by B. Max Mehl in 1941 secured the numismatic importance of the 1841.

14) Herdman Collection. There is some speculation, provided by Breen, that this and the following Empire coin are actually the same.

15)Empire Inventory. A "walk in" purchase in the heyday (early 1960's) of the Empire Coin Company.

16) Robison Collection. Earlier in the Terrell Collection.

17) Hydemann Collection. The lowest grade piece on the registry, just a Very Good.
The dazzling 1841 Quarter Eagle we are now privileged to offer comes to us without the advantage of a pedigree, but it is our opinion that this finest certified representative is almost certainly number 5 on the roster, the coin tracing back to the Adolphe Menjou Collection, fittingly the first specimen that was actually dubbed the "Little Princess" in print. The brightly mirrored yellow-gold surfaces have dramatic "two-toned" effect. A few wispy contact marks can be detected in the fields surrounding the major design elements, but the fragile mirrors are refreshing hairline-free. These enviable qualities of extreme rarity, numismatic fame, and finest certified status combine to make the Gem Deep Cameo 1841 Quarter Eagle in this sale one of the most memorable gold coin offerings of the decade. Population: 1 in 65 Deep Cameo, 0 finer (4/04). (#97867) (PCGS# 97867)

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