Southern Mint Quarter Eagles
1847 — 1860
Authored by Jeff Garrett
This issue we explore the second half of the Southern Quarter Eagles struck from 1847 to 1860. This group is rich in interesting and rare coins. Southern gold coins have become very popular in recent years. There is tremendous demand for original, problem free examples. Whether you are trying to complete the entire set or just looking for an interesting coin to add to your collection, hopefully the following information will prove helpful.
Graded NGC: 246 Total, Mint State 34, Finest MS64 (3)
With the highest mintage of any Charlotte Mint quarter eagle, it is not surprising that the date is also one of the most available in the series. When assembling a type set of Southern branch-mint gold coins, the 1847-C Liberty Head quarter eagle will probably represent the Charlotte quarter eagle. Although the issue is the generally available, most of the coins seen are represented by well-worn examples. The date is usually well struck, with the exception of the eagle’s right leg. Harry W. Bass Jr. must have had a special interest in this issue, as he possessed five examples. The Smithsonian has four 1847-C quarter eagles. The finest graded by NGC has been MS64, one of which sold at auction in January, 2012 for $17,365.
Graded NGC: 163 Total, Mint State 21, Finest MS65 (2)
The 1847-D Liberty Head quarter eagle has a mintage that includes slightly fewer coins than the preceding years from the Dahlonega Mint. The date seems more common, however, and it is probably the date most likely to be included in a type set requiring an example from this popular Southern mint. Most examples are well struck for the issue, and the date shows evidence of repunching at the base of the numerals. Although About Uncirculated coins of the date and mint can be found with moderate effort, Mint State coins are quite scarce. Two coins have reached the coveted gem MS-65 level. One example is from the fabulous Duke’s Creek Collection. The Dukes Creek example last sold at auction for $74,750 in 2006.
Graded NGC: 322 Total, Mint State 33, Finest MS65 (1)
The 1847-O Liberty Head quarter eagle is one of the most poorly struck issues from the New Orleans Mint. Coins of the date are almost always very softly struck in the central portions of the obverse and reverse. The 1847-O quarter eagle is only moderately scarce in the lower grades on up to About Uncirculated. In Mint State, however, the date is very rare and only occasionally offered for sale. There are a few varieties known for the issue, the most notable being those with a sharply recut date. Harry W. Bass Jr. was greatly interested in the issue, as he possessed at least 10 coins. NGC has graded only a single 1847-O quarter eagle as MS65 and that coin has not appeared at auction. The Smithsonian example is a modest About Uncirculated coin.
Graded NGC: 158 Total, Mint State 15, Finest MS62 (6)
A large number of the 1848-C Liberty Head quarter eagles were struck from bulged dies, and the quality of manufacture is quite poor. The coins are difficult to grade and almost appear to be damaged. The strike is particularly weak on the central portions of the obverse around the word LIBERTY. A small portion of the mintage was sharply struck, and these coins command a premium. The typical 1848-C quarter eagle grades Very Fine or Extremely Fine. Quite a few examples have been graded in various states of About Uncirculated, but true Mint State coins are very rare. The finest examples graded to date has been in MS-62 condition, one of which sold in October, 2015 for $12,925.
Graded NGC: 148 Total, Mint State 19, Finest MS63 (4)
The 1848-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is one of the more available coins of the denomination from the Dahlonega Mint. Examples of the issue can be found in grades of Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated with a bit of patience. A half-dozen or so coins are offered at auction each year. The 1848-D quarter eagle is usually found well struck, much sharper than many of the later issues from the mint. Die clashing is found quite often, primarily in the central portions of the obverse and reverse. Mint State examples of the date are rare, with MS-63 coins being the finest examples graded by NGC. The last NGC MS63 1848-D quarter eagle to appear at auction sold for $24,725 in June, 2002.
Graded NGC: 95 Total, Mint State 8, Finest MS65 (1)
As the low mintage would suggest, the 1849-C issue is one of the scarcest dates in all grades for Charlotte Mint quarter eagles. High-grade examples are almost never seen. The population reports indicate a concentration of survivors in the Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated grades. Just a few coins have been graded Mint State. The Smithsonian collection has an example that grades Mint State is also exceptional. An exception for the issue is the by far finest known example that surfaced in 2012. The coin was certified by NGC as MS65 and sold for $69,000. The date on 1849-C Liberty Head quarter eagle shows minor repunching on the 49. On the reverse, the mintmark is tucked tightly beneath the eagle and is the same on coins dated 1850 and 1851.
Graded NGC: 136 Total, Mint State 11, Finest MS62 (4)
The 1849-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is much rarer than the Dahlonega quarter eagle issues of 1846 through 1848. The date is usually seen in grades of Very Fine to Extremely Fine. Many surviving examples have been harshly cleaned or damaged in some way. On most of the coins seen, the reverse denticles are weak on one side. The date is extremely rare in full Mint State. Fewer than a dozen examples have been graded at that level, most in the last few years. The finest pieces graded for the issue have been a few at the MS62 level, one of which is the Duke’s Creek specimen. This coin last sold in August, 2014 for $18,800.
Graded NGC: 134 Total, Mint State 20, Finest MS63 (1)
Like the 1849-C quarter eagle, the 1850-C Liberty Head issue is quite rare in Mint State. More examples, however, are seen in the lower states of preservation. Original coins with luster are very desirable. Most 1850-C quarter eagles are weakly struck, particularly on the central portions. The eagle’s left leg is usually very softly impressed. Many survivors of this date exhibit moderate die clashing on both the obverse and reverse. Harshly cleaned examples are also frequently encountered. The Smithsonian specimen is a pleasing About Uncirculated coin. The finest graded example of the date is a single MS63 that sold for $25,300 in September, 2005.
Graded NGC: 133 Total, Mint State 12, Finest MS63 (1)
The 1850-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is quite a scarce coin, but examples of this elusive issue have been offered at auction with regularity for the last few years. Most surviving coins are in grades of Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated. Mint State 1850-D quarter eagles are very rare. NGC has graded about a dozen coins as Mint State. Most of these coins are at the MS-61 and MS-62 level and have been graded on recently. The Harry W. Bass Jr. example was offered as a PCGS AU-58 coin, but Jeff Garrett’s notes for the auction stated that the piece could grade at the MS-62 level. A single example has been graded MS-63 by NGC, but has been offered at auction.
Graded NGC: 331 Total, Mint State 11, Finest MS64 (1)
The most interesting feature of the 1850-O Liberty Head quarter eagle is the extremely poor quality of the strike on most known examples. The central portions are usually very weak, to the point of looking mushy. Grading coins of the issue can be difficult, and one must consider any remaining luster as the primary guide. The date is scarce in all grades, and just a few coins are offered for sale most years. Not surprisingly, the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection contained nine examples. The date is very rare in full Mint State, particularly in choice condition. The Smithsonian coin is a stunning Choice MS-63 example, one of the finest known. The single NGC MS64 example has not appeared at auction.
Graded NGC: 108 Total, Mint State 15, Finest MS62 (5)
Most of the known coins of this date fall solidly in the Extremely Fine range. Mint State coins are scarce and seldom seen. Production quality for the issue varies, and while some coins are well struck, others are poorly made. Several examples we have seen were struck from severely clashed dies. The 1851-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is sometimes found with peculiar obverse die scratches across the face of Liberty; these can appear to be damage at first glance. The mintmark is tucked tightly beneath the eagle and can almost disappear with casual observation. The Smithsonian coin is in well-worn Extremely Fine condition.
Graded NGC: 81 Total, Mint State 5, Finest MS65 (1)
Most of the 1851-D Liberty Head quarter eagles seen are well struck for the era, particularly for a coin from the Dahlonega Mint. The date is usually offered in grades ranging from Very Fine to Extremely Fine. The 1851-D quarter eagle is scarce in all grades, with just three to six coins offered at auction each year. About Uncirculated coins are quite rare, especially in the higher range of that grade. The Smithsonian example is a pleasing AU-55. The 1851-D quarter eagle is a true grade rarity in Mint State. Only 5 surviving coins have been graded at that level by NGC. The finest known example is the stunning Duke’s Creek Collection coin, which is the lone MS65 coin. The coin is a radiant gem and at one time was part of the famed Eliasberg Collection. The Duke’s Creek coin sold for $63,250 in 2006.
Graded NGC: 442 Total, Mint State 42, Finest MS65 (1)
With a mintage sharply higher than that of the previous year, the 1851-O Liberty Head quarter eagle is relatively available in grades short of Mint State. However, the date is quite rare in full Mint State, and examples are seldom offered. The only exception in recent decades was the sale of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection. His holdings constituted a small hoard, with 10 coins being offered over two years. These were promptly absorbed into the market and have rarely surfaced since. The finest specimen seen is a single MS65 coin graded by NGC. The 1851-O issue is often seen with a sharply doubled date, including all four digits. These coins are among the most dramatic examples of repunching for the era. The strike for the date is average; some coins have weakness on the wing tips and centers.
Graded NGC: 91 Total, Mint State 8, Finest MS62 (1)
The mintage for the year would indicate that the 1852-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is a scarce issue. That is surely the case, as just a few examples are offered for sale each year. Most of the known coins are in the Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated range. Mint State coins are very rare and when available are probably on the low end of the scale. The finest example known at this point again seems to be a Harry W. Bass Jr. coin, which was certified as MS-63 and sold in 1999 for $26,450. Bass had a keen eye for quality, and when offered the opportunity would purchase a coin to upgrade a date that he already possessed. The date is found with the usual maladies common on Charlotte Mint gold coinage: weak strike, clashed dies, rough planchets.
Graded NGC: 54 Total, Mint state 5, Finest MS64 (1)
The Mintage for the 1852-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is substantially lower than in previous years from the Dahlonega Mint. Examples are truly rare in all grades, with the average coin seen being in Very Fine or Extremely Fine condition. A few MS-62 examples have been offered in the last couple of years, but this seems to be an exception. For many years there were very few nice collections of Southern gold offered for sale. The last couple of decades has seen the dispersal of several great collections, the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection being one of the most complete. The sell-off of great collections has provided collectors with unique opportunities for acquisition that are seldom available. The finest known coin of the date is the NGC MS-64 example from the great Duke’s Creek Collection of Dahlonega gold. This coin sold for $57,500 in 2006.
Graded NGC: 504 Total, Mint State 32, Finest MS63 (4)
Although the quantity struck for this date is somewhat high, locating an example in any grade can be difficult. Surprisingly few 1852-O Liberty Head quarter eagles are offered for auction each year. The mintage for this issue is much higher than that of the Dahlonega and Charlotte Mint issues, but in Mint State the coins are of similar rarity. The finest coins graded to date by NGC only achieved a rating of MS-63, and there have only been a few of those, the last having appeared for sale in 2003. The Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection only contained one Mint State example. The date can be softly struck on the wing tips and in the central portions. There are two distinct varieties of the date seen. One variety is seen with a normal mintmark, and the other shows a very large or heavy O.
Graded NGC: 49 Total, Mint State 7, Finest MS62 (3)
As the tiny mintage would suggest, the 1853-D Liberty Head quarter eagle must be considered rare in any grade. Probably fewer than 100 coins still survive in all grades. Population data indicate that most 1853-D quarter eagles fall in the Extremely Fine grade range. The issue is usually weak in some portions of the surface, with the denticles often quite softly impressed. A few coins of the date exhibit deep proof like surfaces, an unusual quality for a coin from the Dahlonega Mint. The Harry W. Bass Jr. coin (sold in October 1999) is the best example of a proof like 1853-D quarter eagle that we have seen. The finest example seen for the date is the Duke’s Creek NGC MS-62 coin, which was sold by Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions in 1985 as a part of the Jasper Robinson Collection for the then princely sum of $18,150. An NGC MS62 recently crossed the auction block for $25,850 in January, 2014.
Graded NGC: 109 Total, Mint State 21, Finest MS63 (1)
The 1854-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is a scarce and popular coin in all grades. Most of the coins offered are well circulated, and Mint State examples are very rare. Coins of this date are frequently found to have been harshly cleaned or damaged. A pleasing 1854-C quarter eagle is quite the prize. Most surviving specimens are softly struck in the center, especially on the eagle’s left wing and about the shield. On the reverse a small die break runs from the fraction bar into the rim. The Smithsonian specimen is a pleasing Uncirculated coin and among the finest known. The finest example that the authors have seen was a coin sold by Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions in 1985. It was from the famous Jasper Robin Collection and was later graded by NGC as MS-62.
Graded NGC: 22 Total, Mint State 4, Finest MS64 (1)
Very few quarter eagles were made at the Dahlonega Mint in 1854, and most of these were poorly produced. This date is always weakly struck in at least some portions of the obverse and reverse. The denticles are weak or missing on most examples. There is an area of raised die lines to the left of the date on all coins we have seen. The 1854-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is often seen well-worn or damaged in some way. Because of the extremely low mintage, the date is one of the most popular for the series. The finest known example is again a part of the great Duke’s Creek Collection. The coin first appeared in 1996 at auction was graded at the MS-64 level by NGC. The coin sold in 2006 for the princely sum of $80,500.
Graded NGC: 496 Total, Mint State 33, Finest MS63 (3)
In lower grades, the 1854-O Liberty Head quarter eagle is not too difficult to locate. It was not so long ago that the date was considered little more than a common issue. As can be seen from the population data, About Uncirculated examples are rather plentiful. In Mint State the 1854-O quarter eagle can be considered a rare coin. The finest example was graded at the MS-64 level and last sold in the Harry W. Bass Jr. sale in 1999. It has been reported that this date was represented in the Jackson, Tennessee, hoard of gold coins found in 1985. One of the most memorable features of this issue is the weakness of strike in the central portions of the date. Many examples are found with this anomaly; otherwise, the date is usually well struck.
Graded NGC: 72 Total, Mint State 17, Finest MS65 (1)
The 1855-C Liberty Head quarter eagle has the lowest mintage of any issue from the Charlotte Mint. The mintage of the 1843-C Small Date may be lower, but that can only be estimated. The quality of striking for the year was atrocious. Most specimens are weakly struck and on flawed planchets. Scattered die chips are a hallmark for the issue. Every coin examined has a small rim cud on the reverse below the denomination. Any 1855-C quarter eagle is very rare, and the date only appears at auction a few times each year. Most examples seen are in the Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated range. Mint State coins are extremely rare. The finest coin ever offered was the phenomenal Harry W. Bass Jr. example, which grades NGC MS65 and hands-down the best known. It sold for $97,750 in 2012.
Graded NGC: 24 Total, Mint State 3, Finest MS61 (2)
The 1855-D Liberty Head issue is one of the rarest quarter eagles from the Dahlonega Mint. The date is usually seen poorly struck, with the customary weakness in the central portions of the obverse and reverse. The denticles are very weak and only partially visible on most specimens. Most of the coins graded in the last few years have been in the Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated grade ranges. Just a few have been graded at the Mint State level. Surprisingly, the finest known example resides in the Smithsonian. The coin grades MS62 in my opinion. The Duke’s Creek Collection coin is the finest in private hands and grades NGC MS-61. That coin sold for $34,500 in 2006.
Graded NGC: 88 Total, Mint State 12, Finest MS64 (1)
The quality of striking for the 1856-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is one of the worst for the entire series from the Charlotte Mint. The coins were struck on very rough planchets and are usually weak in the central portions of the obverse. The surfaces of most coins have the appearance of granularity and lack greatly in eye-appeal. The 1856-C quarter eagle is rarely offered for sale. Most of the coins that do appear are well circulated and poorly made. The punches for the date are quite small and almost appear undersized. Just a few Mint State coins are known, with one of the finest being the Smithsonian example. The coin in the famous Elrod Collection was also a standout and among the finest surviving specimens. The finest to appear at auction is an NGC MS63 that sold for $19,550 in 2012.
Graded NGC: 16 Total, Mint State 4, Finest MS61 (4)
The 1856-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is one of the very few United States coins with a mintage of fewer than 1,000 pieces. As such, the date is extremely desirable in all grades. It is also the rarest quarter eagle from the Dahlonega Mint. Unfortunately, the 1856-D quarter eagle is one of the most poorly made United States gold coins. The coins have a very crude look. Planchet flaws are also sometimes encountered for this date. Just five or six coins have been graded at the Mint State level. Most of these have been graded in the last few years using slightly more liberal standards than in the past. The most recent appearance of a MS61 coin was in January 2012 at $69,000. The Smithsonian contains an outstanding coin that could grade Mint State.
Mintage 21,100 Graded NGC: 140 Total, Mint State 14, Finest MS62 (2)
The mintage for the 1856-O Liberty Head quarter eagle is much smaller than for the previous issue of the denomination from the New Orleans Mint. It is correspondingly much rare. The date is extremely rare in Mint State and almost never seen. The highest coin graded to date is an MS-62 example. The coin in the Smithsonian also grades MS-62 and is among the finest known. The rarity for the 1856-O quarter eagle compares very favorably to that of its Southern mint counterparts. The popularity of New Orleans gold has not reached that of the Dahlonega and Charlotte issues, but with more information available, that may someday change. Most coins are struck in typical form for the New Orleans Mint and the era.
Graded NGC: 61 Total, Mint State 17, Finest MS63 (1)
After producing the very poorly made 1856-D Liberty Head quarter eagle, the quality for the 1857-D issue is surprisingly good. Most of the known examples are very well struck for the era. It is interesting that the quality of production at the Dahlonega Mint varied greatly, not only by year but also by denomination. While the 1857-D quarter eagle and half eagle are struck well, the gold dollars from 1857 are very poorly made. As the low mintage of only 2,364 coins would suggest, the 1857-D quarter eagle is a very scarce coin in all grades. Most of the coins offered in recent years have been graded from About Uncirculated to MS-60. Most of the Mint State coins have been graded in recent years. An NGC MS62 plus coin sold for $17,625 in 2013.
Graded NGC: 264 Total, Mint State 50, Finest MS64 (2)
The year 1857 marked the last year for the production of Liberty Head quarter eagle sat the New Orleans Mint. The mintage was a modest 34,000 coins and most encountered heavy circulation. The collecting of coins by mintmark was virtually unknown at the time, and it is a miracle that any survived at all in Mint State. The 1857-O quarter eagle is scarce in About Uncirculated levels and quite rare in full Mint State condition. The finest pieces graded to date are limited to just a couple at the MS-64 level. The issue is usually seen well struck, and a few representatives are deeply proof like. It is reported that a quantity of the date was found among the gold coins in the Jackson, Tennessee hoard. Many of the coins from that group were mishandled, and the quality of pieces is unknown. One of the MS64 coins sold for $19,550 in 2007.
Graded NGC: 134 Total, Mint State 37, Finest MS63 (2)
The 1858-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is scarce but much more available than the 1854 to 1856 Charlotte Mint issues. The quality of striking improved greatly. Planchet roughness was still a problem, and imperfectly made coins of the date were still the norm. The date is also known with what appears to be rather severe planchet-adjustment marks on the central portions of the obverse. Quite a few Mint State coins have been graded, the finest being a couple of MS-63 coins graded by NGC. One of these sold for $17,250 in 2009. The Smithsonian example is a pleasant About Uncirculated coin.
Graded NGC: 91 Total, Mint State 14, Finest MS62 (3)
The 1859-D Liberty Head quarter eagle is the last issue for the denomination from the Dahlonega Mint. The low mintage of 2,244 and the status of being the last year of issue for the mint make this a very popular coin. As a brief study of the population reports reveals, there are an unusually large number of About Uncirculated examples and relatively few Mint State coins. The Duke’s Creek specimen is among those and may be the finest known for the date. The finest specimen graded to date has been an MS-62. Most of the coins seen of this date are well struck for the era and mint. The authors have seen a few partially prooflike examples as well. One of the MS62 coins sold at auction in August, 2015 for $24,675.
Graded NGC: 112 Total, Mint State 11, Finest MS63 (3)
The 1860-C Liberty Head quarter eagle is the last issue from the Charlotte mint and is quite popular. It is always seen weakly struck on rough planchets. Only a few coins of the date are offered for sale each year. Most of these coins are in About Uncirculated condition at best. When David Akers wrote his book on quarter eagles, he reported only one Mint State coin. Years later Doug Winter estimated three in that grade. Now, NGC reports 11 Mint State coins. The population reports make this coin seem less rare than it really is. The finest-known example appears to be a NGC MS-63 coin that surface in the early 1990’s. The coin more recently sold for $25,850 at auction in January, 2014.