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1861 Quarter Eagle
1861 Quarter Eagle

The 1861 quarter eagle is one of the most common Liberty quarter eagles of the series struck between 1840 and 1907. A grand total of 1,283,788 were struck, the 3rd highest of the whole series. Examples are plentiful in high grades, although the majority of known examples are in uncirculated grades. Circulation of this issue was very limited following the outbreak of the Civil War, when all gold and silver coinage was hoarded from circulation. Breen, in his Encyclopedia, notes that “Much of the bullion for business strikes came from melted “Type I” gold dollars stored at the N.Y. sub treasury”.

This issue comes with two distinct reverses, as do the 1859 and 1860 quarter eagle issues. The old reverse, from a hub that was planned to be discontinued after 1859 has large letters and arrowheads. The new hub, which was used for the majority of 1858 to 1861 quarter eagle dies, has much smaller letters and arrowheads. The letters are also wider spaced than the earlier issues. A reason for the existence of these pieces has never been found in Mint papers, although a sudden need of reverse dies for this denomination might be the reason.

Although the overall mintage is very large, the 1861 old reverse quarter eagle is a true rarity. First publicized in 1976, a staggering 115 years after being first minted, it is generally assumed that less than 100 pieces are known to exist in modern times. A few high grade examples exist, including one or two MS-66 pieces, of which one PCGS graded example sold for nearly $ 15,000 in December of 2004. Most example of this rarity are very well struck, although they tend do be somewhat weaker in the central areas. Clash marks are common, indicating that they might have been produced in haste, when a large number of quarter eagles were needed.

Much more common are the 1861 quarter eagles with a new reverse. Examples are easily found in all grades up to MS-64. Gems are scarce, and anything higher than that is very scarcely found. Less than a dozen MS-66 pieces have been graded by the major grading companies, and these are highly regarded as type coins. A single piece has been graded by PCGS as MS-67, which is the finest known of both the old and new reverse.

As the other quarter eagle issues from this era, proofs are a true rarity. The commonly accepted number of produced pieces is 90 proofs (made on April 5), although only 10-12 are known in all grades according to Garret & Guth. Dave Akers earlier counted a total of 9 pieces known in all proof grades. A couple of these are permanently impounded in museums, and examples rarely come up for auction in any grade. All proof quarter eagle of the year the Civil War commenced are from the new, small letters reverse die.

A few pieces have been graded as PR-66’s, although the true number is hard to estimate due to resubmissions. Two pieces, one by both PCGS and NGC have been graded as PR-65DCAM pieces, of which one sold for $44,850 in September 2005. In fact, that was the only proof piece of this issue that was sold publically since 2003. A proof Civil War quarter eagle is a true rarity and can be one of the highlights in a collection of Civil War proof coinage.



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1861 Quarter Eagle - Information about 1861 Quarter Eagle - Civil War Gold

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