Liberty Head Quarter Eagle (1840-1907): Christian
Gobrecht designed the Liberty Head Quarter Eagles.
It was minted from 1840 to 1907, the longest span of any coinage
series without any major design modification. In that period
of time 11,921,171 Liberty Head Quarter Eagles were minted.
Gobrecht used the coronet
motif for his Liberty Head Quarter Eagle
design. It shows a profile of Liberty facing left. Her hair
is tied in the back with beads as two curls flow down her
neck. On the coronet the word LIBERTY is inscribed. She is
surrounded by thirteen six-pointed stars and the date, which
is below the truncation. At the periphery of the Liberty Head
Quarter Eagle are dentils on both sides of the coin. The reverse
of the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle shows a
heraldic eagle with wings outstretched looking to the left.
In its talons it holds the olive branch and arrows, symbols
of peace and preparedness. The inscription UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA is in an arc around the eagle, interrupted by the
wing tips. The denomination written as 2 ½ D. is below,
separated from the inscription by dots.
In 1859 James Longacre, who
was now the Mint Chief Engraver, slightly modified the reverse
by making the arrowheads smaller and further apart; however,
in San Francisco the old reverse was used until 1867. In 1866
it was mandated that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST be added to
all coinage large enough to accommodate it. It was decided
that the quarter eagle was too small for this modification.
As an anti-counterfeiting
device, these coins were completely hubbed except for the
date and mint mark. The dates were entered by hand. In 1873
a new 3 was used because the old one was the “closed
3” and was easily mistaken for an 8.
In 1848 gold came from California
to Philadelphia to make medals for Generals Zachary Taylor
and Winfield Scott. Mint Director Patterson ordered that the
coins from the excess of this gold deposit be struck with
the abbreviation CAL. on the reverse above the eagle. Forgeries
have been made by privately punching CAL into regular 1848’s,
and authentication is strongly recommended. (All USRCI coins
are authenticated by one of the major grading services.)
Despite the fact that the
coin was not custom designed to mark the event, many numismatists
consider the 1848 CAL. to be the United States’ first
commemorative coin. It commemorates the first shipment of
gold from California to the United States Mint, and one could
argue that it is a separate subtype within the quarter eagle
Mintages for the Liberty
Head Quarter Eagle range from a high of 1,404,668
in 1853 to a low of 246 the next year in San Francisco. This
low mintage took place because of a shortage of the acids
necessary to separate silver from the gold ore. The meager
supply of acid was used for the double eagles of that year.
Authentication is highly recommended for any 1854-S coins.
The same is true for any 1841 Philadelphia coins, which have
an unknown mintage.
are found with either a Small Date and a Crosslet 4 or
a Large Date and a Plain 4, with the former being very
rare with only 70 to 80 known in all grades, and prohibitively
rare in Mint State, usually well struck with sharp wire
rim on obverse. Large Date only 150 to 200 known, exceedingly
rare above MS61, most are weak on center of obverse.
Quarter Eagle Proof Quarter Eagle Found with Old and
New Reverse, which has smaller arrowheads and letters.
Available in lower uncirculated grades, exceedingly rare
above MS63. Only 7 proofs have been certified.