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Charlotte Gold $5 Offers Allure of Scarcity
By Paul M. Green
Numismatic News May 8, 2007

Item of the Week
Charlotte Gold
The average person probably did not notice the "C" above the 1838 date on this Charlotte $5 gold piece. Nowadays collectors sure do. The coin is highly desirable in any grade.
Top grades are scarce and have prices to prove it.

Most historic coins are pretty well known, but every so often there is a very historic coin that seems to fall through the cracks in terms of interest. That description might well fit the 1838-C quarter eagle as this is a very historic issue that seems to be known by very few.

The 1838-C was something no one had ever seen before as it was a quarter eagle of the United States that was not even made in Philadelphia. The fact is had many persons seen the small "C" on an 1838 quarter eagle at the time, the odds are pretty good that they would not have known why it was there or what it meant.

The situation in 1838 had to be exciting for the Mint. For the first time in the history of the United States there were going to be coins produced outside Philadelphia. It was not just the gold quarter eagle, as there were facilities opening at Charlotte, N.C., Dahlonega, Ga., and New Orleans, La.

The whole idea of branch mints had been sparked by the discovery of gold in the hills of Georgia and North Carolina. The gold was great news. The supply of gold and silver over the years had always been a problem for the Mint. To suddenly have a reliable supply of gold was the answer to the dreams of some Mint directors in those early years.

The only thing that could have made things better was if the gold had been discovered in a suburb of Philadelphia. The decision was made that it was better to deal with the gold on the spot rather than to try and send it all the way to Philadelphia. That saw the approval of the Charlotte and Dahlonega facilities to produce only gold coins.

There was something of a delay. Outfitting a mint in a place like Dahlonega or Charlotte back in the 1830s was not the easiest task. It took time to get what was needed to the area. Then everything had to be set up. By the time either facility was ready to produce its first gold coins, it was 1838.

In New Orleans in 1838 they opted for silver. At the new facility in Dahionega, the first mintage was of half eagles. At Charlotte there would also be a half eagle mintage of 17,179 pieces, but Charlotte would also mint quarter eagles to the tune of 7,880 pieces.

The smaller mintage and the fact that only Charlotte tried quarter eagles in 1838 should not be too surprising. The quarter eagle was still really getting established in circulation. The denomi¬nation had been authorized in 1792, but it had never been widely used. Only since 1834 had there been quarter eagle mint¬ages of more than 10,000, so while low, the 1838-C mintage was not unusual.

It would be safe to suggest there was very little saving of the 1838-C quarter eagle. As a result, what we have today are basically circulated examples with the price of an F-12 being $1,700, while an MS-60 lists for $27,000.

In fact, it appears that someone must have been excited as at NGC they report a total of 46 examples graded, but 11 of the coins were Mint State, although none was above MS-63. At PCGS the total graded was 77 coins. Only six were Mint State, with the best being MS-64.

In any grade, however, the 1838-C is a special coin and at today's prices a good deal on a coin that combines both a low mintage and an important place in history.

 

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Charlotte Gold

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