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The $2.50 gold piece, or Quarter Eagle was the smallest gold coin specified in the original Mint Act of 1792. The half dimes through dollars were silver; the cent and half cent were copper. First coined in 1796 (a year after the Half Eagle and Eagle) the initial design lacked stars on the obverse. It is a one year type, and with a miniscule mintage of only 963 pieces, perhaps 10% or so survive. The only ultra-rarity in this series is the 1854-S. Only about a dozen or so remain from the original mintage of 246 pieces, and all are circulated. Other key dates include the 1796 With Stars, the 1797 and the 1808, also a one year type coin. Some controversy surrounds the 1841 Quarter Eagle, nicknamed the "Little Princess." Originally thought to be a Proof-only issue, it is now believed some Circulation Strikes were made, although no mint records exist. As of now, it is included only in the Set Registry as a Proof. Adding the major varieties to the Quarter Eagle set brings a few significant rarities not already discussed. Two are early; the 1804 13-star reverse and the 1806/5 7X6 star obverse. In the later Liberty Head series, the 1848 "CAL" variety will prove elusive. It's a fascinating issue, struck from bullion sent to the Secretary of War William Marcy by Col. R.B. Mason, military governor of California.
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