The Eliasberg 1853 Arrows and Rays Quarter
1853 25C Arrows and Rays PR65 Cameo NGC. Walter Breen's
Proof Encyclopedia records a total of five proofs and Larry
Briggs' Liberty Seated quarter reference does likewise, probably
following Breen's lead. Breen identifies (while citing no
reference) the occasion for the pieces' striking on March 3 as the
introduction of the new Arrows and Rays subtype, whose
business-strike coinage began on April 26. (This remark apparently
dates to Harold Newlin in the 1880s, who pegged the striking of
proof half dimes to that date. Breen leapt, rightly or wrongly, to
the conclusion that all Arrows and Rays proofs were struck on that
date.) The right arrow point nearly touches a dentil, while the
shield point is over the right base of the 1 in the date. The left
base of the 1 is about over the center of a dentil. Light recutting
is visible south on the 53 and the right arrow. The bottom of the
flag on the 1 is even with the left arrow shaft. On the reverse
some faint die file marks are visible above the ER in AMERICA, and
some die polish lines in the loop of the Q. Most of these die
markers for the proof coinage are documented in either the Breen or
PR65 Cameo, One of Five Certified Proofs
As any serious collector of 19th century proof coinage knows, proof coins of any denomination and year before 1858 or so are quite rare. This piece should be doubly popular, as it is not only incredibly rare in its own right, but it is also a one-year proof representative of the important Arrows and Rays subtype. (While the 1853 and 1854 are often collected and considered as a single type, the 1854 Seated quarters lack the Rays reverse, technically making the two issues distinct subtypes.) The proof 1853 Arrows and Rays quarter is considered the most important proof issue in the Seated Liberty quarter collection.
Although this coin is not attributed as such by NGC, it is clearly the specimen from the Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, where Q. David Bowers cataloged it as "MS-64, prooflike," going into extensive detail on why the piece might be a true proof--at least, as that term might apply to coins dated 1853. Among the similarities he cites that are visible on this piece are "delicate champagne toning over mirror surfaces" and the die finishing lines just inside the denticles over stars 11 and 12. A small patch of darker toning midway down Liberty's right (facing) calf is a match, as is the tiny rim crease just above the Liberty cap, between stars 8 and 9 (this is, however, apparently in the die, as some other specimens in the roster below show the same feature). The color plate in the Eliasberg catalog is also a dead match.
The following roster, updated since our Phil Kaufman and Scott Rudolph offerings, shows the present coin to be probably the third finest known of the eight coins enumerated. A few of the pieces may be prooflike business strikes, and there may be some duplication; only five of the following pieces have been certified as proofs.
1. PR67 NGC. Heritage (7/2008), lot 1640. Unsold. Different from any of the pieces below.
2. PR66 Cameo NGC. Phil Kaufman Collection (Heritage, 8/2007), lot 1785; Scott Rudolph Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 3766, which realized $230,000. This piece matches none of the following coins.
3. PR65 Cameo NGC. The present coin. Acquired by J.M. Clapp (as "Uncirculated") at an early date, probably before 1894; John H. Clapp; Clapp estate, 1942, to Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 1454; Heritage (1/1998), lot 6782; David Lawrence (3/2005), lot 1522; unknown intermediaries. In the Eliasberg catalog, Dave Bowers described this piece as MS64, prooflike, noting "possibly a candidate for 'proof' attribution." Since the time of that sale, it has been certified as a proof.
4. PR64 NGC. Jerome Kern Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 1445; John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1325; Bowers and Merena (8/1999), lot 141; Goldberg Coins (2/2002), lot 704; Superior (1/2004), lot 287.
5. MS64, prooflike. Thomas L. Elder; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 3/1988), lot 1594. Dave Bowers cataloged this as a prooflike business strike in the Norweb catalog, but a decade later Dave Akers included it in his census of proofs.
6. PR63 PCGS. Auction '80 (Stack's), lot 1184; Auction '90 (Stack's), lot 143; Stack's (5/1992), lot 2659; Superior (6/1999), lot 2099; Superior (10/2000), lot 4360; Goldberg Coins (5/2001), lot 561; Superior (1/2004), lot 2354.
7. Proof. Lester Merkin (6/1968), lot 291; Stack's (10/1990), lot 1638.
8. Proof. National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 23WU, PCGS# 85548)
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