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QUARTER EAGLES - TURBAN HEAD QUARTER EAGLES (1796 - 1807)
Turban Head Quarter Eagle

Quarter Eagles - The two hundred and fifty cents or two dollars and fifty cents coin is called the Quarter Eagle. It derives its name from the ten dollar eagle coin. The first issue was designed by Robert Scot and struck at the mint in Philadelphia in 1796 and branch mints in Charlotte, North Carolina from 1838 to 1859 (not inclusive); New Orleans, Louisiana from 1838 to 1857; Dahlonega, Georgia from 1839 to 1859; and later in San Francisco from 1854 to 1879 and Denver 1911 to 1925. At first it weighed 67.5 grains and had a fineness of .9167. In June 1834, the weight and fineness were changed to 64.5 grains and .8992; however, the Act of January 18, 1837 changed the fineness to .900. Before 1834 few coins were struck. They are rare today because of their low mintage numbers and high melting for bullion because of their higher gold content. With the removal of the United States from the gold standard, the denomination was officially discontinued in 1933, but the last coin had been issued in 1929.

Specifications:
Weight: 4.37 grams
Composition: .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper
Diameter: approx. 20 millimeters
Edge: reeded

The designs and designers of the coins are as follows:

  • Turban Head or Capped Bust to Right (1796 – 1807) – Robert Scot
  • Draped Bust or Capped Bust to Left, Large Size (1808) – John Reich
  • Capped Head or Capped Head to Left (1821 – 1834) – Robert Scot, William Kneass
  • Classic Head or Classic Head No Motto on Reverse (1834 – 1839) – William Kneass
  • Liberty Head or Liberty Head Coronet (1840 – 1907) – Christian Gobrecht
  • Indian Head (1908 – 1915, 1925 – 1929) – Bela Lyon Pratt
Turban Head or Capped Bust to Right (1796 – 1807)

The Turban Head or Capped Bust to Right quarter eagles, designed by Chief Engraver Robert Scot, were minted from 1796 to 1807. None were minted from 1799 to 1801, or 1803. All of the coins in this series are rare with the highest mintage of 6,812 in 1807. Except for the stars, they have the same basic design.

The obverse shows a bust of a female Liberty in profile facing right with the date below and slightly to the left. The source of Scot’s obverse design is probably a Roman engraving that copied a Greek goddess. She wears a large, loose fitting cap, and some of her hair sweeps up and around the cap, making it seem like a turban. The cap itself is not a Phrygian cap, which was emblematic of freedom. It was a close fitting cap worn by freed slaves in ancient times to cover their shorn heads. Slaves were not permitted to grow their hair. So the cap used to cover these heads became associated with freedom. However, when he was asked about it, Thomas Jefferson said that the Phrygian cap was not an appropriate symbol of freedom for the United States of America because we were never slaves. Nonetheless, it persisted as a symbol in American coinage perhaps because of its use in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The reverse of the quarter eagle has a heraldic eagle with its head turned to the left. Its wings are raised and a banner is seen in front of the right wing, across the neck and ending under the left wing. It is inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. Around and above the eagle’s head is an arrangement of stars. Above that is a chain of six clouds. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, interrupted by the wing tips, is around the periphery of the coin.

This reverse design was taken from the Great Seal of the United States. In what some have called colossal design blunder, Robert Scot placed the arrows in the wrong talon. On the left side, the eagle’s right talon, arrows symbolize aggressive militarism. They should have been placed in the left talon with the olive branch in the right. If this rearrangement was unintentional, it shows a new, inexperienced country that can’t even get its symbolism correct. If this was a deliberate rearrangement, it shows a young country taking an aggressive stance during a time of conflict. From 1798 to 1800 the country was engaged with France in an undeclared naval war. Perhaps this symbolism was being used to make a statement to France and others about the sovereignty of the United States.

These coins have no denomination-- something that might appear as a sign of ineptitude on the part of early Mint employees to someone familiar with United States coinage of the 21st century. The omission was intentional, however, as United States coinage was new to the world market of the 18th century and the term “Quarter Eagle” or “Two and One-half Dollars” would have been unfamiliar to merchants of the day. Like European coinage of the time, silver and gold pieces were valued by their weight and fineness so the denomination was largely irrelevant.

DATE NOTES
1796 Quarter Eagle Major varieties include No Stars and 13 Stars on Obverse. Less than 100 No Stars and less than 50 Stars known.
1797 Quarter Eagle Lowest mintage in series. Less than 30 known. Vertical die crack connects Y with Star 12 and 13.
1798 Quarter Eagle Found with Close and Wide Date. Less than 40 Close Dates known. Wide Date has 8 embedded in bust. Reverse die used for dimes of 1798 to 1800. Prohibitively rare in Mint State.
1802 Quarter Eagle All known examples are 1802/1 overdates. Exceedingly rare in Mint State.
1804 Quarter Eagle Found with 13 or 14 stars on the reverse. 10 to 12 13 Stars known, none in Mint State. 14 Stars, exceedingly rare in Mint State.
1805 Quarter Eagle 1805 Quarter Eagle $2.5 PCGS AU58. Exceedingly rare in all grades.
1806 Quarter Eagle All known examples are overdates of one sort or another. Exceedingly rare in all grades.
1807 Quarter Eagle Rare in all grades but most common of type. Exceedingly rare above MS61.


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Quarter Eagles - Turban Head Quarter Eagles - 1796 - 1807 Quarter Eagles - Early Quarter Eagles

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