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    Description

    1837 Classic Head Quarter Eagle, PR66+
    Deep Cameo Surfaces, Finest-Known Example
    Variety 18, JD-1, Proof-Only Variety
    Ex: Parmelee-Eliasberg-Bass

    1837 $2.50 PR66+ Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC. Breen-6145, Variety 18, JD-1, High R.7. Only four examples of the 1837 Classic Head proof quarter eagle are known to numismatists today. One of those coins is located in the National Numismatic Collection at Smithsonian Institution and a second example is in impaired condition. Heritage Auctions is privileged to present the finest-known example of this landmark early proof rarity in this important offering.

    Proof Gold in 1837

    The only gold denominations coined in 1837 were the quarter eagle and half eagle (coinage of eagles was suspended after 1804 and did not resume until 1838). Both denominations featured the Classic Head design. Business-strike mintages were about average for both denominations, as 45,080 quarter eagles and 207,121 half eagles were coined. Proof mintages were not recorded, but they were undoubtedly small (only four proof quarter eagles and a single proof half eagle have been identified in recent times). Normally, proof coins of this era were struck to order, to meet the requirements of an influential collector or government official. Whenever proofs were requested, Mint personnel would select and polish the required number of planchets, polish a pair of working dies, and strike the coins on the medal press to improve striking quality. The same dies were often used to mint both proof and business-strike coinage. For some years, proofs are known from different die pairs, i.e., there are three different die varieties of proof 1836 quarter eagles.

    The four proof 1837 quarter eagles we know about today were all struck from the same die pair (JD-1), but die evidence suggests they were struck at different times during the year, for different purposes. The JD-1 obverse has the date centered between the bust and dentils, with the 7 centered below the left edge of the lowest curl. All examples seen have a prominent die crack through star 8 and the bust, in different stages of development. Star 6 points to the top half of the headband and light recutting shows on stars 8 and 9 and TY in LIBERTY. The reverse has only two pale gules in the shield and the eagle has a tongue. Curiously, these dies were never used to strike regular-issue coinage, making the JD-1 a proof-only issue. We know the coins were struck at different times because the coin in the National Numismatic Collection displays a different die rotation (about 17 degrees counter-clockwise) from the others. Also, the impaired specimen is from a later die state than the others, with two bisecting die cracks through the obverse.

    The Present Coin

    The coin offered here has one of the longest and most distinguished pedigrees of any U.S. federal issue. It has been a highlight of some of the most famous and important numismatic collections ever formed, and its history can be traced back to the earliest days of the hobby.

    Coin collecting first became widespread in this country in the 1850s and Cambridge, Massachusetts numismatist George Seavey was among the first wave of prominent collectors. He formed an extensive collection of American coins, including colonial, pattern, and federal issues. He was particularly fond of proofs and his holdings included many early proof issues, extending back to the early 1820s. He purchased proofs at auction, through private sales with collectors and dealers, and directly from the Mint. Beginning in 1858, when the Philadelphia Mint began its commercial proof offerings to collectors, Seavey purchased a complete gold, silver, and minor proof set every year to update his collection of U.S. federal coins. At some point in this early period, he acquired this marvelous 1837 proof quarter eagle, which he retained until he sold his entire collection to Boston numismatist Lorin G. Parmelee, in 1873. In the descriptive catalog of Seavey's collection, published by dealer William Strobridge in 1873, this coin was listed in lot 565.

    Boston millionaire Lorin G. Parmelee made his fortune selling baked beans to restaurants, hotels, and private citizens. Starting with cents he culled from change received in his business activities, Parmelee went on to compile the most extensive and valuable U.S. coin collection of the 19th century. He purchased some of the most famous collections of that era intact in order to get specific coins he needed, and sold his duplicates through prominent coin dealers in blockbuster auctions throughout the 1870s and 1880s. He acquired and dispersed the collections of George Seavey (1873), Carson Brevoort (1876), and Charles Ira Bushnell (1882) in this manner. He finally sold his holdings through New York Coin & Stamp (H.P. Smith and David Proskey) in June of 1890. The 1837 proof quarter eagle was listed under lot 1071, which sold to John G. Mills.

    Mills, of Albany, New York, sold the 1837 proof quarter eagle, along with the rest of his collection, through S.H. and H. Chapman in 1904. Washington collector John M. Clapp purchased the coin in lot 552 of the Chapman's catalog and it passed to his son, John H. Clapp, after his death. The younger Clapp also retained the coin throughout his lifetime, and the entire Clapp collection was purchased from his estate by super-collector Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. in 1942, with Stack's acting as intermediary.

    Eliasberg, a Baltimore, Maryland financier, formed the only complete collection of U.S. federal coinage in the history of the hobby. He generously exhibited his collection on many occasions and articles about his achievement were published in mainstream magazines and newspapers. Eliasberg died in 1976, and his remarkable collection was divided among his heirs. Bowers and Ruddy offered the gold portion of his collection at a landmark auction in 1982. The 1837 proof quarter eagle appeared in lot 104 and sold to Mike Brownlee, acting as agent for Harry Bass.

    Harry W. Bass, Jr. was a specialist in early gold die varieties and patterns, but his interest extended to many other numismatic disciplines, as well. Most of his holdings were sold in a string of auctions by Bowers and Merena after his death, but a Core Collection of representative pieces has been preserved at the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum at the American Numismatic Association. The 1837 proof quarter eagle was offered in lot 94 of the Bass Collection, Part III (Bowers and Merena, 5/2000), where it was purchased by Terry Brand. This coin was publicly offered once more before its present appearance, in lot 643 of the Classics Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 7/2003). It has only been traded privately since.

    Physical Appearance

    This delightful Plus-graded Premium Gem exhibits sharply detailed peripheral design elements, but a touch of the always seen softness shows on IB in LIBERTY and the eagle's leg and shield border. Some central softness is seen on all known specimens of this issue, probably due to the extensive die cracks that disrupted the metal flow. The devices of this piece are richly frosted and the fields are deeply mirrored, creating an intense cameo effect. The well-preserved yellow-gold surfaces show only insignificant signs of contact, including a thin, nearly invisible, hairline below the T in UNITED and a tiny spot under the eagle's left (facing) wing. A few minor planchet flakes are evident on close inspection. A dramatic die break is seen from the rim, through star 8 and the bust, to the serif of the 7 in the date (Dannreuther Die State b/a). Overall eye appeal is simply stunning. This coin is the finest-known example of this early proof rarity by a full three grading points and its exceptional quality and eye appeal are attested by the Plus designation and CAC approval. It boasts an illustrious pedigree to some of the most important collections of all time. This piece has been off the market for 16 years and it may be many years before another example becomes available. The discerning collector will bid accordingly. Population: 1 in 66 (1 in 66+) Deep Cameo, 0 finer (6/19).

    Roster of 1837 Proof Quarter Eagles
    1.
    PR66+ Deep Cameo PCGS. George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 1873), lot 565; Lorin G. Parmelee purchased Seavey's entire collection in 1873; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1071; John G. Mills; Mills Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1904), lot 552; John M. Clapp; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. in 1942, via Stack's; Eliasberg Estate; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 104; Mike Brownlee, acting as agent for Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Estate; Bass Collection, Part III (Bowers and Merena, 5/2000), lot 94, as PR65 PCGS; Terry Brand, upgraded to PR66 Deep Cameo PCGS; The Classics Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 7/2003), lot 643; unknown intermediaries, Todd Griffiths, in November 2010; Brian Hendelson, in April 2011; Joan Zieg Steinbrenner; the present coin.
    2.
    PR63 Deep Cameo (grade per John Dannreuther). Mint Cabinet in 1838; National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution.
    3.
    PR63 Cameo NGC. A specimen certified at the 2013 FUN Convention; Kevin Lipton; Todd Griffiths.
    4.
    Proof - Graffiti - AU Details PCGS. H. Field, December 1961; John H. Schroeder Collection; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2006), lot 4707; Ron Karp and David McCarthy; Dr. James A. Ferrendelli; Ferrendelli Collection (Stack's Bowers, 8/2014), lot 11045.
    From The Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Collection. (PCGS# 800146)


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

    View all of [The Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    14th-18th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
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