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Draped Bust Quarters (1796-1807)

Draped Bust Quarters

Designer: Gilbert Stuart. Engraver: Robert Scot. Weight: 6.74 grams. Composition: .8924 silver, .1076 copper. Approx diameter: 27.5 mm. Reeded edge. Mints: Philadelphia.

Robert Scot designed the obverse and John Eckstein the reverse. The obverse was based on a drawing of Ann Bingham by the famous American portrait artist, Gilbert Stuart. It shows a right facing, draped bust of Liberty in profile. A ribbon ties the upper strands of her hair, while the rest flows down her shoulders. There are eight six-pointed stars to her left and seven to her right. The word LIBERTY is above and the date is below. The Small Eagle of the reverse was designed by Eckstein. It shows a skinny eagle perched on clouds surrounded by a wreath that is tied with a bow. Around the wreath is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The right side of the wreath is palm, and the left side is laurel. The palm is a compliment to Henry William DeSaussure, who came from South Carolina. Unfortunately, by the time the coin was issued, he had resigned his position as Mint Director. No denomination is indicated, and the edge is reeded.

Evidently Gilbert Stuart was disappointed with Draped Bust motif because his connection to it was suppressed. The blame is partly on Engraver Robert Scot, a bank-note-plate artist who had no knowledge about making a die or a device punch. It is also on his assistant, John Eckstein, who made “models” for the new Draped Bust coin designs. Eckstein is also given credit for designing the Small Eagle reverse with its cloud shaped perch and oversized wreath.

With fifteen stars on the obverse, one for each state in the Union at the time, it is evident that no one thought that there would be a sixteenth state. Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796, yet many quarters, and other denominations that used the same motif, were struck after that date with fifteen stars.

Thomas Jefferson chose Robert Scot to be the first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793. Scot was born in 1744 in Edinburgh, Scotland or England. (Documentary evidence is lacking as to where he was born.) He was trained as a watchmaker in England and learned engraving afterwards. He moved to the United States in 1777, where he worked as an engraver of plates, bills of exchange, and office scales. During the Revolution, he was an engraver of paper money.

In 1780 he was made the State Engraver of Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia the next year. He was appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793 by David Rittenhouse, Mint Director. His salary in 1795 was $1,200 per year. The Mint Director received only $800 dollars per year more. Scot’s ability to make dies was limited, and in his advanced years he had failing eyesight. His work was somewhat less than that done in Europe at the time, and Scot was criticized for its poor quality. He was responsible for designs of most of America’s first coins. These include the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust motifs used on early silver coins and the Capped Bust gold coins. Scot also designed the 1794-1797 half-cent, the 1800-1808 draped bust half-cent, and the Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. He died on November 1, 1823 and was succeeded by William Kneass as Chief Engraver.

John Eckstein was a German engraver who called himself an “historical painter and statuary to the King of Prussia.” Because of his delay in getting to America, he was not hired as the Engraver at the Mint. In his stead, Robert Scot received the position. However, in the summer of 1795, Eckstein did some work for the Mint. He was paid for two models for dollars. Some researchers believe that these models were dies for the new Draped Bust of Liberty that had been drawn by Gilbert Stuart. Others feel that Eckstein only made plaster models that were used by Scot but were not dies. Later Eckstein and his brother Fredrick worked as engravers of copperplate in Philadelphia.




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