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Finest Certified 1838 No Drapery Quarter, MS681838 25C No Drapery MS68 PCGS. CAC. R.W. Julian's article "Gobrecht's Seated Liberty," published in the July 2003 edition of the magazine Coins, offers an excellent overview of how the eponymous design made its way to the quarter dollar. The Liberty Seated obverse, which Julian credits to a collaboration between engraver Christian Gobrecht and artists Titian Peale and Thomas Sully, was created for the silver dollar, but its use spread quickly to other denominations:
"The designs were so well received that [Mint Director Robert] Patterson soon sought permission to improve the looks of the dimes and half dimes by putting the seated figure on the obverse. ... Once the dimes and half dimes had received the seated figure of Liberty, the quarter dollar came next. Gobrecht prepared the dies in the summer of 1838 and in September several trial pieces were sent to Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury and President Martin Van Buren for their inspection. Approval was soon forthcoming and coinage quickly began. Demand was strong enough that 466,000 pieces were struck by year's end."
Julian further notes that while Gobrecht's obverse design was artistically successful, it created certain technical challenges that Mint Director Patterson decided to rectify. In a different article, "Collectors Clamor for Seated Liberty Quarters" in the February 29, 2000 edition of Numismatic News, Julian describes the change made and how it affects the way today's collectors approach the series:
"The quarter coinage of 1838-1840, without drapery, is increasingly obtained by type collectors because of the distinct difference in the obverse dies. This variety was struck at Philadelphia in 1838 and 1839 but also at New Orleans in 1840; the dies for the latter were sent off before all the changes were in place. Philadelphia coined only the variety with drapery in 1840.
"Sculptor Robert Ball Hughes had been hired by Director Patterson to slightly redesign the silver coinage, especially the Seated Liberty figures; the change of drapery at the elbow is a mark of Hughes' work. The point of the make-over was to reduce the height of the figure so that the coins would strike up better in the available coining presses."
While the 2010 edition of the Guide Book does not specify the No Drapery Seated quarters as a subtype, many collectors do consider them such, among them James W. Lull, previous owner of the present example; he assembled a high-end type collection which included both this 1838 quarter and an 1857 quarter, which would be redundant for type purposes if not for the No Drapery versus Drapery nicety.
The second Julian quote references what may be considered this Superb Gem beauty's only flaw, that its strike is soft at the peripheries; still, in light of the issue's striking weakness being ever-present, this is forgivable. Otherwise, the eye appeal has no need for redemption; the bold silver-white luster on each side shines through occasional splashes of milky patina. Essentially unmarked and frosty, with a small sliver of startling brilliance between the T and E of STATES on the reverse. In a prior appearance, the cataloger mentioned that this MS68 PCGS example had a peer at NGC, a coin graded MS68 ; this listing no longer appears in the Census Report, and the logical conclusion is that the MS68 coin was recertified, this time by PCGS; possibly that coin and the present lot are one and the same. Population: 1 in 68, 0 finer (3/09).
Ex: James W. Lull Collection (Bowers and Merena, 1/2005), lot 681.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 23SE, PCGS# 5391)
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