1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle. BD-1, the only known dies. Rarity-4. Die State b. AU-55 (NGC).
1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle Rarity
The John Reich Design
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Die Variety: This is one of the most important single year type coins in American federal coinage. The new design for this issue was created by assistant engraver John Reich. Liberty faces left and wears a cap inscribed LIBERTY, a motif similar to that on the Reich designed half dollars and half eagles launched in 1807. The obverse stars are arranged 7 left and 6 right, with the date below Liberty's bust. She wears a dress that is pinned at her shoulder with an oval ornament. The obverse also shows John Reich's signature "notched star" which appears on a good many of the dies he is thought to have engraved. The final star on the lower right has a small notch carved out of the outer point near the rim; this feature appears during Reich's tenure at the Mint until 1817 when he left after his request for a raise after 10 years of service was denied. Reich, being proud of his outstanding die engraving, "signed" his dies in this clever manner.
Reich completely redesigned the reverse. This year the emblematic eagle is standing with its wings stretched up and facing left. Its breast is protected by the shield, and in its right claw is the olive branch while the left claw clutches three arrows. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the eagle above, and the denomination of 2 1/2 D. appears below the eagle -- the first time the quarter eagle denomination is stated. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is placed on a raised ribbon above the eagle, stretched between the standing wings. A nearly vertical die scratch from a slip of the engraver's tool is found on the left (facing) wing edge below the eagle's beak. For reasons unknown no further quarter eagles were struck until 1821, by which time the designs had been changed again, creating the unique date/variety/type quarter eagle of 1808. Bidder interest is always intense when one of these is offered for sale.
Die State: State b. This is the usually seen die state. All known examples have a die crack above Liberty's cap and down through all the stars on the right. There are no examples known without this obverse crack suggesting that the die must have fractured early in production. Later die states exist with a crack through the center of the date, but coinage could have continued if demand called for it, as these cracks would not have prohibited continued striking. The reverse die remained free of cracks or clashing through this limited production.
Mintage: 2,710 coins.
Estimated surviving population: 125 to 200 coins.
Strike: The Ferrendelli coin is well struck, as are most from this issue. A few of the obverse stars lack their radial centers, as commonly seen on this issue, and a hint of reverse adjustment marks is present on the upper edge, which caused the dentils to be soft in this area and below the date on the opposing side of the coin. The central devices are all well defined, with all the lettering present as well as the shield lines.
Surfaces: Attractive bright yellow gold with a hint of orange on both sides overlaying residual luster in the protected areas. Minimal surface wear, as expected for the grade. The uppermost curls on Liberty and the tips of the eagle's feathers and claws are all that show friction from circulation.
Commentary: Opinions as to the number of extant 1808 quarter eagles have varied widely, with Walter Breen (1988) suggesting between 35 and 40. Our 125 to 200 figure given above is more realistic.
Q. David Bowers: The 1808 is not a landmark rarity in the context of early quarter eagles, but as an American "type" coin needed by everyone completing a type set, the demand for it is incredible.
In the olden days rare issues were often given a higher grade. This was very common. For this reason "Uncirculated" listings usually represent what we might call EF or AU today. In his October 1923 sale of the Charles Wellinger Collection, B. Max Mehl offered lot 83: "1808 Bust to left. An unusually well struck specimen of this rare date. Extremely Fine, with considerable mint luster. Considering the coin, it can almost be classed as Uncirculated. Very rare." Accordingly, truly high grade examples are rarer than the auction records suggest.
PCGS# 7660. NGC ID: 25FD.
Pedigree: From the Dr. James A. Ferrendelli Collection.
NGC Census: 5; 28 finer (MS-64 finest).
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All population information listed above is intended to be as accurate as possible. Stack’s Bowers Galleries insists that you contact each certification source for further verification. No purchasing decisions should be made on this data alone, which is provided as a service and convenience to our customers. Returns based on inaccurate data will not be accepted.