Rare Money Blog

1823/2 Browning Plate Coin Quarter

Historic Browning Plate 1823/2 Quarter Featured in our June 2020 Auction

By James McCartney, Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director

Author: James McCartney / Thursday, May 14, 2020 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week

​Few American rarities have been so carefully documented and studied for provenance as the 1823/2 Capped Bust quarters. The rarity of this date was already legendary by the time Montroville W. Dickeson wrote his 1859 American Numismatical Manual, where he pronounced this date “extremely rare.” In 1883, Harold P. Newlin posited that the four rarest U.S. silver coins were the 1802 half dime, the quarters of 1823 (all of which are 1823/2) and 1827, and the 1804 dollar, helping to contextualize the truly elusive nature of this issue.

Thirty-one discrete specimens have been documented, and a few more are assumed to exist in old-time collections or unexamined institutional holdings, yielding about 35. The Smithsonian Institution and the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha both own well-worn specimens. More than half of the known survivors are in grades below Very Fine, most quite worn, a few damaged, even one famously repaired to remove graffiti.

Featured in our June 2020 Santa Ana Auction is an EF-45 (PCGS) 1823/2 quarter that is appearing on the market for the first time in over 85 years. The obverse is pearly silver-gray with a dusting of pinkish-bronze near the borders. It is uniformly sharp with full denticles at the rim and centrils visible on every star. A minor blemish at the edge between stars 5 and 6 serves as a pedigree marker. The reverse is evenly toned in peach and golden iridescence, with hints of pearly luster in the fields surrounding the eagle. Trivial mint-made planchet streaks show around the eagle’s head including a prominent streak through the B of PLURIBUS, and will help with pedigree tracing.

The present coin is very significant in the context of this incredibly rare issue. It was ranked as CC#8 in the exhaustive 2010 census by Rory Rea, et al., with an estimated grade of EF-40. At the current grade of EF-45 (PCGS), it is tied as the fourth finest certified by PCGS, with the AU-58+ Brand-Gardner-Link coin at the top of this population. No examples are currently graded in Mint State by PCGS or NGC, and the Newcomer-Miles-Hawn specimen has been graded Proof-64 (PCGS).

This piece was illustrated as a plate coin in the seminal 1925 reference The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States 1796-1838 by Ard W. Browning. It can be traced back to George S. Seavey circa 1873, and next it appeared in the legendary June 1890 sale of the Lorin G. Parmelee Collection. Plated in lot 947 and sold for $132, it was described as “excelled by only one specimen” and “exceedingly rare.” It then appeared a few times in the early 20th century, first at the January 1914 ANS Exhibit and then in in the Waldo C. Newcomer Collection, as advertised by B. Max Mehl in the March 1932 issues of The Numismatist. It last appeared publicly over 85 years ago in Louis R. Hemmer’s Premium List of May 1935 and has been held privately since. While not technically a “new” discovery, this offering is certainly an exciting re-discovery from the early quarter series.

This historic EF-45 (PCGS) 1823/2 quarter will be sold in our June 18-19, 2020 Santa Ana Auction, offered alongside Vermont coppers from the Q. David Bowers Collection, the Francesca Collection of US Gold Coins, The Dazzling Rarities Collection, and many other rarities. The sale will be available for bidding and viewing on our website wwww.StacksBowers.com  or you may contact us to secure a copy of the printed catalog. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.