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    Extremely Rare Lustrous Gem 1901-S Quarter

    1901-S 25C MS65 PCGS. Three dates in the Barber quarter series stand out as rarities. Dave Bowers (2006) gives an overview: "Along the way [in the production of Barber quarters], three varieties of exceptionally low mintage were created: 1896-S, of which just 188,039 were minted; 1901-S, with 72,664; and 1913-S, with 40,000. Interestingly, the most available of these three in Mint State is the lowest-mintage 1913-S ... choice and gem pieces that are well struck and very attractive are extremely hard to find, except in just a few varieties."
    PCGS currently shows 494 grading events for the 1901-S quarter (9/08). Most of those submissions grade Good 4 or lower. There are more coins certified About Good 3 than any other grade; in fact, the weighted average grade is just above Very Good 10. The number of certified 1901-S quarters from NGC and PCGS combined at any grade above Very Good 10 is 10 pieces or less, which means every example of the date graded finer than Very Good 10 can be considered very rare to extremely rare.
    The reason for the preponderance of heavily worn 1901-S quarters in population data is, reasonably, that most of the quarters were used rather than put aside. It is interesting that all three of the rare Barber quarter dates are more heavily represented by low grades than high grades in comparison to the other years in the series. Those three rarities are also San Francisco issues, and the citizens of Western states tended to prefer coins rather than paper notes. Perhaps with relatively few coins to start with, the quarters kept moving from pocket to cash drawer and back again, and they were simply used up. Whatever the reason, a Mint State 1901-S quarter is rare, and a Gem example extremely rare.
    The history surrounding the Barber design is enlivened by events of intrigue and self-interest, not surprising for the era. The Liberty Seated quarter design had been around since the late 1830s, and some thought it time for a change. Either because of legitimate confusion over past legislative intent, or perhaps due to other motives, Mint Director James P. Kimball worked with Senator Justin Morrill to have a bill introduced that would simplify the approval process for new coin designs. The resultant Act of September 26, 1890, allowed the Treasury to change coin designs, without Congressional approval, after an existing motif had been in use for 25 years.
    Walter Breen (1988) colorfully describes what happened next: "Implementing Kimball's eccentric idea, the Treasury shortly afterward announced a competition among 10 of the best-known American artists for new coin designs -- only to find that they jointly rejected the terms ... the Treasury's riposte was to throw the competition open to the public ... [Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber's] presence among the judges was the kiss of death. The Treasury circular of April 4, 1891, giving details of the competition, elicited about 300 entries. Of these 300, only two were thought worth even an honorable mention; Barber made certain that no prize would be awarded. The new Mint Director, Edward O. Leech, called the contest 'too wretched a failure' ever to be tried again, and ordered Barber to prepare the designs himself--which is exactly what Barber had wanted all along."
    Director Leech was more magnanimous toward Barber. In a letter to art critic R.W. Gilder, Leech noted that "Mr. Barber comes from three generations of mint engravers and designers, and has done excellent work in coin designing, and is in every way equipped for this important duty." Perhaps anticipating further concern about Barber, he added "artistic designs for coins, which would meet the ideas of an art critic like yourself, and artists generally, are not always adapted for practical coinage." (Don Taxay, The U.S. Mint and Coinage, 1966). Even today Barber's artistic abilities are debated, but nonetheless the coins bearing his designs are avidly collected.
    For Barber quarter enthusiasts, the 1901-S is the premium issue of the series. The surfaces of this example are lustrous and well struck, though with a bit of softness at the hairline of Liberty and on the right edge of the reverse shield and nearby wing. The surfaces boast a pleasing palette of rose and cinnamon toning, accented with blue and silver highlights (including a blue blush on Liberty's cheek). There are no distracting marks or spots. Many collectors are happy to find a 1901-S quarter at any grade, but an example at this level of preservation and with such a remarkable appearance is a rare opportunity. This coin is sure to be a standout of the advanced Barber or type collection, admired and appreciated for many years to come. Population: 7 in 65, 6 finer (9/08).
    From The Scott Rudolph Collection.
    See: Video Lot Description(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 23YR, PCGS# 5630)

    Weight: 6.25 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Scott Rudolph Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
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