May 11, 2009
The quarter dollar denomination is replete with rarities throughout the 200 plus years in which they have been struck. The Washington quarter series has the dynamic duo of the 1932 Denver and San Francisco issues; the Standing Liberty series has the 1916, 1918/7-S and the 1927-S; and Barber quarters are represented by the trio of San Francisco rarities: the 1896-S, 1901-S, and 1913-S.
The Liberty Seated series has so many rarities, especially in the popular higher grades, that one needs several hands to count them all. The 1873-CC No Arrows is known by only four examples, while the 1842 Small Date is represented by a handful of examples.
The very first quarter dollar design type is represented by a single date, 1796, and although it is not a great rarity, its popularity as the first quarter issued and the lone date of the type make it one of the most desirable United States coins. The Draped Bust type was only struck from 1804 through 1807, but the magical-date 1804 quarter does not disappoint those collectors looking for rarity.
However, the Capped Bust design contains the most desirable quarter of them all. Represented by two types (Large Size 1815-1828 and Small Size 1831-1838), the Capped Bust quarter design contains one of the most popular and mysterious rarities in American numismatics – the 1827. The 1823/2 quarter is a spectacular rarity in its own right, but when the obverse die that struck that Capped Bust quarter was overdated in 1827, a classic rarity was created. Of course, there are quarter dollars that might be conditionally more rare, but there is no other quarter date that can match the 1827.
When an 1827 quarter sold at auction for the first time in 1863, it realized a huge price for the day - $225! The word was out. As a result, the 1827 quarter was restruck on several occasions. When restrikes were made, we know that a popular issue is involved; the Mint did not restrike coins that were unpopular.
Much has been written over the years about this intriguing issue. Karl Moulton has advanced the knowledge of 1827 quarters as much as anyone with his detailed analysis of the various strikings of this date. Moulton speculates that the two early-die state 1827 quarters struck over cut-down Draped Bust quarters (the type struck from 1804-07) were struck in 1827 before the so-called Original 1827s.
The 1827 "Originals" are the Browning 1 variety that uses a reverse die with a curved base 2 in the denomination, while these two overstrikes use an 1819 reverse die with a square base 2 in the denomination (first used on 1819 circulation strikes, then for the two 1827 overstrikes, then later for the rusted 1827 Restrikes). This article will examine one of those 1827 B-2 quarters overstruck over an 1806/5 quarter. This 1827 quarter, a superb PCGS PR66 example, has an incredible pedigree, including the name of Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., the owner of the only complete set of United States coins. Eliasberg owned not one, but two 1827 quarters, as he also had a circulated "Original" B-1 example.
After a recent examination of this unusual overstrike, several new possibilities arose as to its origin. There are numerous clues to this puzzle, including the oft-ignored third side of the coin – the edge. It has been known for a long time that the planchets used for these two mystery coins were previously struck Draped Bust quarters. Walter Breen even identified the Eliasberg coin as being struck over an 1806/5 issue.
The Mint was undergoing numerous changes in the late 1820s. As America's economy improved, more coinage was needed to promote the ever-increasing commerce. Although Congress threatened to abolish the Mint during its initial years of operation, by the late 1820s the Mint was firmly established and was seen as an important part of the government. Striking more coins became important and better equipment was introduced in the 1820s and 1830s that would modernize the Philadelphia Mint.
One improvement came in December 1827 with the introduction of a new coining press built by the Philadelphia firm of Rush and Muhlenburg. It would be nine more years before steam-powered coining presses would be installed in the Philadelphia Mint, but this new press allowed a new type of die to be introduced – the lipped die used in combination with a tight, close collar to produce a uniform rim. Prior to the introduction of the lipped die, the dentils extended to the edge of the die and even when paired with a close collar produced only slight and uneven rims.
Previous numismatic researchers believed that the reeding on early United States coins was added prior to striking by a device known as the Castaing machine. The Castaing machine consisted of two bars, one fixed and one movable, mounted in a frame which "rolled" the blank between the edge devices as its lever was activated. The Castaing machine was definitely used to impart the incuse, lettered edges to early American coins, but current research indicates that most of the reeding seen on early American coins was applied with collars. The evidence for this has become overwhelming in the last few years through the research of numerous early coin specialists.
One of the most obvious clues to this situation went unnoticed by nearly everyone. When off-center strikes of early reeded edge coins are found, they have plain edges! The early close collars should be differentiated from the later close collars, so the early ones will be called loose close collars, while the later ones (post-1827) will be called tight close collars.
In December 1827, plans were underway to convert the coinage to lipped dies and tight close collars. There are two emissions that appear at this time that are different than previous issues. The 1827 JR-10 Capped Bust dimes and the 1827 B-1 and B-2 Capped Bust quarters have a different appearance, even though the dies have dentils extending to the edge. These are the old-style no-lip dies, but with squared-off edges imparted by tight close collars (the JR-10 dimes also are the first United States coins to feature wire rims or "fins" in Mint jargon).
The reed count on the JR-10 dime is unlike any 1827 dime and matches the collar found on one of the 1828 issues, which are the first regular issue United States coins employing the tight close collar. The 1827 B-2 quarter has a similar distinction, as it has 128 reeds, unlike any other Capped Bust quarter. These tight close collars would become the norm starting with the 1828 dime coinage as mentioned, although lipped dies were used for just one side of the 1828 dimes (it is unknown why the two varieties of 1828 dimes mate lipped and non-lipped dies). The rest of the denominations followed suit with lipped dies and tight close collars found on all United States coins from 1837 onward.
What about the two 1827 quarters struck over the cut-down Draped Bust quarters? First, why is the 1827 quarter so rare, anyway? A clue is found with the experimental nature of the JR-10 dime; as previously mentioned, it also likely is a test coin and is represented almost exclusively by high-grade examples like the 1827 quarter.
The Mint occasionally took a lightly used die, punched a new date over the old one, and produced more coins. The 1806/5 quarter and quarter eagle are two examples of such dies used in one year, redated, and used in another year. Since the Eliasberg example 1827 B-2 quarter is struck over an 1806/5 quarter, it is, in essence, an 1827/3/2/6/5!
The 1827 quarter dollar die has a couple of features that have received little attention. When the die was overdated, different style punches were used. The original 8 on the 1823/2 is a block 8 (looks like two 0s stacked), while the 8 punch used for the 1827 is a script or belted 8 (the same punch used for the 1820-28 half eagles with a belt-like loop, although the 1820 Square Base half eagle issues and the 1829 use block 8s).
It is possible that this previously used 1823/2 die was selected because of the experimental nature of this issue. If a large mintage had been anticipated, it is likely a fresh die would have been employed instead of a five-year-old, previously used die. The reverse die selected also was not the best that the Mint had to offer. All known examples of the original 1827 B-1 quarter have a die crack on the reverse. This reverse was employed with an 1828 obverse to produce the Browning 1 of that date and is found cracked with all known examples. This reverse die likely saw its final use with the 1828 B-1 quarter, as several other cracks that appear with this use, indicating that it likely failed in 1828 and was destroyed.
All other 1827 quarters are obvious Restrikes and employ the 1819 reverse with a square base 2 in the denomination, as the reverse die used for the Originals was no longer available. The early die state of the obverse of the two overstruck 1827 B-2 quarters is noted by the extensive lapping, which is mostly gone before the B-1 examples were struck. If indeed the two early die state B-2 examples are test strikings, how were they struck to produce the crushed reeded edges?
The count of 128 reeds on the overstruck 1827 quarter dollars is different than on any early bust quarter. Then it likely was struck a second time in the new press with a plain, close collar. The evidence of the first striking is seen to the left of the date, as the initial strike left a remnant of the 1 from the the first strike, slightly rotated.
Another theory about this faint digit is that it is a misplaced 1 punch in the die during the overdating, similar to the partial digits seen in the dentils on later dies. Since there is no other evidence of double striking noted, this might be the cause with this faint digit. If true, it would prove that these two B-2 coins were struck before the B-1 examples, as the B-1 strikes do not have this feature.
Another possible way the Eliasberg coin was produced would be to use the Castaing device to add the reeding before striking and then striking the coin in the plain, tight close collar. Further research may produce other theories about the striking of this exotic rarity, as can be seen by the uncertainties in this article.
What we do know is that the host coin was filed on its edge (it is 26.6 mm versus 27.5 mm for the 1804-07 type), then the obverse and reverse were planed down (it weighs 93.6 grains versus the standard 104 grains for the 1804-07 type, although Breen and others feel that the rim filing and wear account for the weight reduction). The edge filing was not completely obliterated during the first striking, as the old-style loose close collar does not force the metal deeply into the edge collar. The plain collar used for the second striking crushed the reeding, similar to the flattened incuse lettering seen on the Crushed Lettered Edge Capped Bust half dollars of 1833-35.
The enigma of this rare issue still remains, however, as many questions are still unanswered. Hopefully, this article will spur further examination of the Eliasberg 1827 quarter and its brother, both unfairly grouped with the rusted Restrikes. As with all research, new discoveries supplant previous "facts" and new conclusions are drawn from the new research.
Those following the Gobrecht dollar saga are quite aware of this scenario, as many "accepted facts" about that issue have recently been shown to be incorrect. In fact, after publishing Part 2 on Gobrecht dollars, the author discovered that the rim marker above the second T of STATES came before the rim marker above the A of that word, as reported in the die state tables.
This rim marker above the T is on the very edge of the coin, so it was missed on many examples examined, as their encapsulation "hid" this feature! In fact, after publishing Part 2 on Gobrecht dollars, the author discovered that the rim marker above the second T of STATES came before the rim marker above the A of that word, as reported in the die state tables. This rim marker above the T is on the very edge of the coin, so it was missed on many examples examined, as their encapsulation "hid" this feature!
After the marker at A appears, a second marker above the T is noted, this one on the center of the rim covering part of the first marker.