Estimated number of pieces known:
16-18 (32-36% of original mintage)
and heavy date impressed relatively high in the field, close
to the truncation of the neck of Liberty. Numeral 1 is low
compared to the other numerals, but difference is minimal.
The 1 is lightly repunched to the north, and it appears
the engraver did not think the numerals were even at first,
but it appears he corrected it faulty. Because of the large
date the numerals are very close, with the 6 and 4 nearly
touching. Reverse was struck from a new die, but with no
notable features and was used for a number of years.
Comments: After the Mint
only struck Proof quarter eagles in 1863 regular business-strike
production started again in 1864. While the mintage of business
strikes was relatively low at 2,824 pieces this has led
to a relatively low demand for the Proof strikings. As such,
1864 Proof quarter eagles are cheaper than those of the
previous year, despite the fact that the surviving population
appears to be lower for the 1864 quarter eagle. Its reported
mintage was 50 pieces (compared to 30 in 1863) but it appears
that no more than eighteen pieces have survived to this
Walter Breen, in his 1977 reference titled
Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof coins mentions that
1864 is “a most frustrating year for collectors”.
While the mintage is the highest of the issues after 1861,
there are actually less quarter eagles known in Proof format
dated 1864 than those of 1862, which had smaller mintages.
There are a number of possibilities for this situation.
First of all, there is a possibility that not all of the
50 quarter eagles were sold in the year of issue, and that
part of the mintage was melted with other gold coins after
the year had ended. This might seem unlikely, but is often
mentioned as one of the prime reasons for the rarity of
many Proof gold coins of this era. Not many collectors (the
number which had increased since 1857 but was still relatively
small), and those that did were not more than twenty-five
or thirty at most.
Another possibility, somewhat less likely
is that all pieces were sold, but that some buyers decided
to put their coins into circulation, reportedly after the
Civil War had ended and gold started to circulate again.
However, this did not happen until several decades after
the 1864 Proof quarter eagles were struck, and it is unlikely
that many collectors did not realize the true value and
potential of these rare and high quality pieces. Circulated
Proof coins of these years do appear at auction once in
a while, indicating that some did in fact circulate, or
at least were kept as pocket pieces for a longer period
Despite the rarity of these pieces and the
infrequent auction appearances prices are still relatively
low, as demand is not as high as one would expect. A Proof-only
issue, such as the 1863, has more coins known to exist but
still sells for higher prices and also appears at auction
more often. When more collectors and investors realize the
true value that these pieces hold demand will surely increase,
but the number of specimens available will be the same.
This creates a very interesting and potentially rewarding
fact for collectors who now decide to persuade these rare
Proof gold coins from the first years of larger scale coin
collecting in the United States.