QUARTER EAGLE $2.50 NGC AU55 Click on Coin Image to
and Beautiful 1798 $2.50 NGC AU55 -
All early quarter
eagles are rare. You would need very deep pockets
and go long on patience and time if you were to set
your goals on assembling an early quarter eagle collection.
Yours truly helped a client in South Carolina several
years ago take on the challenge which only got 75%
of the way to completion and was still a multi-million
dollar collection when sold at ANR auctions. It was
called The Charleston Collection for any of you researchers.
The earlies are quite challenging which brings us
tothe present specimen which is a dandy and looks
even better in hand then it does in the pictures.
In its population report, NGC shows only 3 1798 quarter
eagles certified at the Choice AU55 grade level. They
do not distinguish quarter eagles by die variety.
This would also make a great coin individually, as
part of an early gold type set, a quarter eagle type
set as an investment, an heirloom of numismatic importance.
The sun is shining on this eye-appealing
early date 1798 Choice AU quarter eagle. Like the sun,
the obverse is bright yellow-gold. The reverse is a
mixture of yellow gold with a light greenish-gold patina.
Clearly both sides are completely original. The few
abrasion marks are in keeping with the grade, and none
requires individual description. There is sufficient
separation in the lines of Liberty’s hair, cap,
and drapery to warrant the grade. The devices are strongly
impressed, especially the horizontal stripes of the
shield, the eagle’s wings, and the dentils on
both sides of the coin. If you want to be dazzled by
a quarter eagle, this is the piece for you.
The BD-2 variety has the date
widely spaced with the 8 touching the drapery. Star
7 is far from the Y in LIBERTY. The reverse has 5
berries on the olive branch. The other variety for
this date, BD-1, has a close date and 4 berries on
the olive branch.
Please contact me by email
or telephone 1-800-624-1870
to reserve this great coin.
The quarter eagle was designed by
Robert Scot. The obverse shows a profile of Liberty
facing right. Below her is the date which is off center
to the left. Between the date and the word LIBERTY
on the left side of the coin are 6
stars. Another 7 stars follow LIBERTY down to the
bust. Liberty wears a large, soft cap. Her hair flows
down and also shows on her forehead. The design was
probably taken from a Roman engraving of a Greek goddess.
Liberty’s cap was certainly not a Phrygian or
liberty cap. The liberty cap, emblematic of freedom,
was worn by freed slaves and freed gladiators in Roman
times. It was a close fitting cap used to cover a
shorn head, which was one of the ways slaves were
identified. Because of the way Liberty’s hair
strands wrap around it, the oversized cap has been
called a turban, and the design has been called the
Turban Head because of it.
The reverse shows a heraldic eagle.
However, Scot mixed up the positions of the arrows
and olive branch. The arrows held in the wrong claw
signify defiant militarism. Either Scot made an error
copying the image of the Great Seal, or he deliberately
changed the symbolism in keeping with very warlike
stance. Considering that the United States at this
time was engaged in a naval war with France (the undeclared
Franco-American War of 1798 to 1800, which took place
on the East coast of North America and the Caribbean
and resulted in the end of French privateer attacks
on U.S. shipping), the latter is probably more likely.
The French would be especially sensitive to a message
within the heraldry, and the young United States was
brash in that they had just defeated the super power,
England in gaining independence. In the field above
the eagle are thirteen stars and above them, an arc
of clouds. A banner from wing to wing has the motto
E PLURIBUS UNUM.
Thomas Jefferson chose 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.
The early Mint in Philadelphia had
many challenges. Each of the specialists, the designers,
engravers, and press operators were men who had previously
worked in other fields. Coin manufacturing was a new
trade for them. Production was sporadic. For the new
Mint to coin each of the mandated denominations, it
took four years. This delay was partly because of
inexperience and governmental obstacles. Bonds that
were unrealistically high were impediments to engravers
working with precious metals. Congress was not united
on the need for a government mint since private and
foreign coinage seemed to work. Because of the non-existent
or low production numbers in the early years of the
Mint, foreign copper, silver and gold circulated along
with American made coins for many years until they
were later demonetized.
Record keeping in the Mint’s
early years was fairly inaccurate. At the end of the
eighteenth century Philadelphia had recovered from
the British occupation and Revolutionary War. It was
the second largest city in the English-speaking world,
but it could do nothing to protect its citizens from
the mosquito-borne epidemic of yellow fever. Its wealthy
citizens went to the countryside to escape, and the
poor grimly waited their fate. Of course these annual
epidemics caused havoc with all manufacturing that
required continuity, such as a coinage sequence. In
addition to yellow fever, chaos at the Mint was also
caused by chronic bullion shortages, coin dies that
would wear out and had to be re-engraved because they
were not taken out of production until they failed
completely, and a Chief Engraver, Robert Scot, who
was in his seventies and had failing eyesight.