1850 Seated Liberty Quarter, PR67
1850 25C PR67 PCGS Secure. CAC. Briggs 3-C. The former John
Jay Pittman 1850 proof quarter is the finest of the four reported
specimens of this early proof rarity by a full two grade points.
The flawless surfaces display rich golden-brown centers bounded by
plum-red and ocean-blue borders. The design elements are fully
struck and the fields are deeply reflective, under the toning.
Overall eye appeal is simply terrific.
Walter Breen, in his 1989 Proof Encyclopedia, calls the 1850 issue "prohibitively rare" and claims to have seen records of only two 1850 proof quarters, "aside from those in the unseen proof sets." Similarly, David Akers writes in the May 1998 catalog of the Pittman Collection:
"The 1850 Quarter in Proof is exceedingly rare, even more so than the Proofs of 1847, 1848 and 1849, and it is in the same rarity class as the 1840, 1841 and 1844 Proof Quarters of which only two or three examples of each are known. Just two Proof 1850 Quarters are known with certainty, with possibly a third example also extant, although the third piece ... is not as obvious a Proof as the other two and is open to debate as to its original minting status."
In addition to the pieces mentioned above, we have identified a fourth example, which was included in the famous Floyd Starr Collection, sold by Stack's in the early 1990s (see roster below). Remarkably, super-collector Gene Gardner owned three of the four known specimens at various times.
Akers described the present coin in the Pittman catalog:
"Thin date. Open 5. Superb! The quality and beauty of this coin are so extraordinary that no written description can possibly do it justice. The strike is absolutely full and there is a high wire rim, especially prominent on the obverse in the upper right quadrant. The fields are deep mirrors and there is great proof luster under the superb toning which is a fiery reddish-gold, violet, blue, and gold. There are a few faint lines in the fields under the toning, but these are planchet lines that were present at the time of striking and not hairlines. There are tiny die defects on the upper right side and lower left side of the 0 in the date; these defects are characteristic of Proofs and appear on both indisputable Proof 1850 Quarters I have seen. The John Jay Pittman Collection has so many exceptional Proof coins of great quality and beauty that it is difficult to single out any one coin as the 'most beautiful'; but, if one were to do so, this 1850 Quarter certainly would be one of the leading candidates. ..."
John Dannreuther relates that Paris' Bibliothèque Nationale in 1986 traded a proof 1850 quarter out of a complete 1850 proof set (including gold) for French coins that the institution lacked. The set was "reportedly obtained by Alexandre Vattemare from the Philadelphia Mint in 1850." Ed Hipps displayed it in 1986 and Tangible Investments of America displayed it at the 1998 FUN convention, according to Akers. It later appeared in the Richmond Collection and was acquired by Gene Gardner, via Jason Carter.
In the era prior to third-party certification, a number of prooflike 1850 quarters were sold or cataloged as proofs. Since the advent of PCGS and NGC, only three different certified proofs have appeared at auction. One, of course, is the present coin, another is the specimen from the Bibliothèque Nationale-Richmond-Gardner Collections, and the other is the PR62 PCGS example, ex: Floyd Starr (Stack's, 1/1993), lot 455. The PR63 example that David Akers mentioned and was undecided as to its proof status last appeared before the era of third party grading, but we list it in our roster for the sake of completeness.
The present coin is a spectacular Superb Gem, the finest-known example of this extremely rare issue. It possesses tremendous eye appeal and an illustrious pedigree to match its highest available technical quality. We expect intense competition from series specialists and Registry Set enthusiasts when this lot is called. Population: 1 in 67, 0 finer (3/16).
Roster of 1850 Proof Seated Liberty Quarters
1. PR67 PCGS. Possibly from Harlan P. Smith (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 820; acquired by John Jay Pittman from R. Green (5/1949); John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1317; Phil Kaufman Collection / FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3035; Greensboro Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 8/2013), lot 5591; Eugene H. Gardner Collection, Part I (Heritage, 6/2014), lot 30406; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 4099; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2015), lot 4036. The present coin.
2. PR65 NGC. Purchased directly from the Mint by Alexandre Vattemare (1850); Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Ed Hipps (1986); exhibited by Tangible Investments of America at the 1998 FUN convention; Richmond Collection, Part III (David Lawrence Rare Coins, 3/2005), lot 1521; Jason Carter; purchased by Gene Gardner (4/2005).
3. PR63. J.H. South Collection (Stack's, 5/1951), lot 515; Central States Convention Sale (RARCOA, 4/1976), lot 218; Reed Hawn Collection (Stack's, 3/1977), lot 310; Ellis Robison (Stack's, 2/1982), lot 1318; Heritage (2/1984), lot 956.
4. PR62 PCGS. Floyd T. Starr Collection (Stack's, 1/1993), lot 445; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1998), lot 156; Gene Gardner.
A. Proof. John F. McCoy (W. Elliot Woodward, 5/1864), lot 379. A five-piece silver proof set sold for $25 to "Levett" (probably George Leavitt).
B. Proof. Joseph J. Mickley (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 1720. A five-piece silver proof set sold for $35 to William Lilliendahl.
C. Floyd Starr reported seeing an 1850 silver proof set in the possession of coin dealer William Hesslein in 1923.
D. Gem Proof. Arizona State National Convention (Vintage, 10/1988). Possibly number 2 on the roster.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 23WD, PCGS# 5544)
Weight: 6.68 grams
Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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