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    1808 Quarter Eagle, MS61
    An Essential One-Year Type Coin
    Only 2,710 Coins Produced

    1808 $2 1/2 BD-1, R.4, MS61 NGC. The year was 1807. The U.S. Mint had been open for about 14 years, and the doughty Elias Boudinot had retired as Mint director in 1805, after a decade of dedicated and enthusiastic service. By the early years of the 1800s, copper cents, silver half dollars and dollars, and gold half eagles and eagles had been struck in relatively plentiful quantities -- at least as compared to the Mint's lean first productions.

    When Boudinot retired in 1805 his replacement, Robert Patterson, would take office in January 1806 and serve until his death in office, in 1824. The Mint's chief engraver, Edinburgh native Robert Scot (1744-1823), had been in office since the days of David Rittenhouse, the Mint's first director. While Scot had made some improvements in Mint procedures, most notably in the creation of device punches, he was slow, had failing eyesight, and was ill-equipped for any major coinage redesigns. Such die-cutting skills as Scot possessed were largely imitative and learned on the job rather than through previous experience.

    By 1807 Patterson had managed to hire Bavarian native John (Johann Matthaus) Reich and tasked him with redesigning American coinage -- an insult to Scot, but one that Reich accomplished with celerity, skill, and panache. The first Reich designs were those of the workhorse denominations of American commerce at the time (the silver dollar and gold eagle had ceased to be produced), the half dollar and half eagle denominations in silver and gold, respectively.

    In 1808 Reich turned his attention to a lesser gold denomination, the quarter eagle, producing a design similar to that of the half eagle. The quarter eagle denomination, however, was little-loved and less-needed. In addition, the Mint was at the mercy of bullion depositors, who could request what gold or silver denominations they preferred for their coinage. The 1808 quarter eagle turned out to be a one-year type, produced in the meager extent of only 2,710 pieces, whereas the 1808 half eagle saw a mintage of 55,878 coins. Today the 1808 quarter eagle is eagerly pursued by type collectors and early gold specialists alike.

    This is one of the best-preserved of all known 1808 quarter eagles. The surfaces are bright and lustrous with strong definition on all the design elements. The yellow-gold color shows just the slightest tinge of reddish patina over the high points. A few small abrasions are scattered about, consistent with the grade, but only two bear individual mention: a shallow scrape out from stars 11 and 12 on the obverse, and another scrape between the 2 and 1/2 on the lower reverse. Census: 6 in 61, 6 finer (11/14). (NGC ID# BFVZ, Variety PCGS# 45515, Base PCGS# 7660)

    Weight: 4.37 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

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

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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