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    1808 Quarter Eagle, XF45
    An Essential One-Year Type

    1808 $2 1/2 BD-1, R.4, XF45 PCGS. Die State b. Any United States gold coin type collection would be incomplete without an example of the 1808 Capped Bust quarter eagle. Ranked among Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth's 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (fourth edition), the 1808 is a famous and widely sought-after single-year type. The issue's low production total of just 2,710 coins heightens its desirability, and while there are several other dates in the early quarter eagle series that surpass it in terms of overall rarity, the 1808 is arguably the most in-demand because of its unique type coin status.

    John Reich immigrated to the United States from his native Germany in 1800 to take a position at the Philadelphia Mint befitting an engraver of his caliber. However, in the early years Reich was displeased with the menial tasks he had been assigned and contemplated a return to Europe. His fortune changed for the better in 1807, when he was promoted to the position of Assistant Engraver. In that same year Mint Director Patterson charged Reich with proposing a series of new coinage designs. His Capped Bust motif was quickly accepted and implemented starting with the half dollars and half eagles of 1807, followed by the half cents, cents, and quarter eagles of 1808, and the dimes and quarter dollars of 1809. Rather than include his initials, Reich signed the coins bearing his design with a small notch on the star 13 punch.

    The low production of just 2,710 quarter eagles, all struck on February 26 using a single pair of dies, largely reflects the denomination's lack of popularity among the public. The two and a half dollar coins had fallen out of favor with gold depositors, as their face value was too high for domestic circulation and half eagles were preferred for international exchange. This is reflected by the comparatively high mintage of 55,578 half eagles accomplished in the same year, and the Mint's failure to strike any more quarter eagles until 1821. In addition to the low mintage of the 1808, the issue's high attrition rate further explains its rarity. Breen (1988) suggests that it may have been a result of the dies breaking early in the minting process, narrowing the borders and exposing the surfaces to excessive wear. The Bass-Dannreuther reference (2006) estimates that just 125 to 150 coins are extant. This is a bright orange-gold example that shows only slight, even wear over the high points and traces of mint luster can still be found surrounding the devices. The most readily available pedigree identifier is a small, round abrasion located just below the eagle's beak.
    From The Faris Collection. (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.

    View all of [The Faris Collection ]

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    June, 2017
    8th-11th Thursday-Sunday
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