David Akers (1975/88):
This is an extremely rare coin in all grades and, as far as I know, unknown in full mint state. I have, however, seen several AU pieces, the finest of which is in a Connecticut collection. Generally not as well struck as the 1840-C, but usually more sharply struck than the 1840. From the standpoint of number of auction appearances, this is one of the dozen rarest Liberty Head quarter eagles and it has actually appeared at auction fewer times than the highly regarded 1854-D and 1856-D.
The 1840-D is the first Liberty Head quarter eagle struck at the Dahlonega Mint. As its small mintage would suggest, it is a rare coin. In fact, in properly graded About Uncirculated-50 or better, it is probably the rarest issue from this mint.
The 1840-D quarter eagle is rare in all grades. It is typically found well worn and a properly graded choice Extremely Fine coin is very rare. It is extremely rare in About Uncirculated and it is currently unique in Mint State.
STRIKE: This is among the most poorly struck Dahlonega quarter eagles. The obverse always shows better detail than the reverse. A few are known with nearly full detail on the hair of Liberty, but most show some weakness. On all examples, the stars are flat. The obverse milling is clear and sharp while the date, although small, is sharp as well. The reverse is weaker with the shield and the right leg of the eagle nearly always blurry. The lettering is sharp and the milling is clear.
SURFACES: The 1840-D quarter eagle is characterized by below average surfaces. Many pieces are rough and show heavy marks in the fields and on the devices. These marks are often compounded by the presence of heavy die cracks. Any example with clean surfaces is very rare and commands a strong premium over a typical coin.
LUSTER: Most are worn to the point of having no remaining luster. Higher grade pieces show poor quality luster with a dull, grainy texture. A few semi-Prooflike pieces exist and are very rare. I have only seen a very few examples that have original luster.
COLORATION: Original, uncleaned 1840-D quarter eagles possess coloration which ranges from medium green-gold to deeper coppery-orange. Only a few remain that have not been cleaned or dipped.
EYE APPEAL: This is one of the most difficult Dahlonega quarter eagles to locate with any degree of eye appeal. A piece which is well struck, lustrous and original is extremely rare.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: As discussed below, the 1840-D quarter eagle is almost always seen with very extensive die cracks. Clearly, both the obverse and reverse dies cracked very early on but somehow managed to hold up well enough to produce slightly over 3,500 coins. I have always found this to be a very charming issue as I can well imagine the Chief Coiner’s look of horror when, early into the process of producing these quarter eagles, the dies suffered potentially fatal cracks. Despite this hardship, the mint continued to crank out 1840-D quarter eagles; an apt metaphor, if you think about it, for the history and the struggle of the Dahlonega mint.
DIE VARIETIES: Two die varieties are known.
Variety 1-A: On the obverse, the 1 in the date is fairly close to the bust and the 0 in the date is fairly close to the denticles. Most have a sharp obverse crack from the rim into the field between the fourth and the fifth stars. This crack continues into the forehead and curls out into the field between the twelfth and thirteenth stars and terminates at the rim. A few exist with a perfect obverse die and they are extremely rare.
The reverse was used only in 1840. The shaft of the arrow ends over the upright of the mintmark. The fraction bar extends to the right side of the opening in the mintmark. The feathers enter only through the upper edge of the opening of the mintmark. The 1 in the fraction is entirely to the left of the mintmark. Most have a sharp crack from the rim through the second T in STATES, through the eagle’s head, down through the left side of the shield, the arrow shaft and olive stem, through the upright of the mintmark and fraction bar and into the rim. A second crack can be seen from the rim through the left edge of the N in UNITED to the leaves and feathers joining the first crack. Other cracks can be seen through the left side of the M in AMERICA, to the wing and from the rim through the right side of the C in AMERICA to the tip of the lowest arrowhead.
Early die state examples of this variety, without cracks, are extremely rare.
Variety 1-B: On this reverse, the mintmark is positioned slightly lower in the field but the top is mostly covered by the arrow feathers. The fraction bar points further to the left than on Reverse A. The most notable difference on this reverse is a heavy die crack through the left side of the E in AMERICA, which does not seem to exist on the other reverse. The discovery coin was sold as Lot 7480 in the 1997 ANA auction and I am not aware of any other examples, although a few may exist.