US Coins

Market Analysis: 1796 Capped Bust quarter eagle brings $456,000

A beautiful 1796 Capped Bust, Stars on Obverse gold $2.50 quarter eagle graded MS-62 was off the market for a generation before its Aug. 17 sale, when it realized $456,000.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

The U.S. Mint was young and ambitious in 1796, busy striking coins in bronze, silver and gold. The recent American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money auctions offered a rich selection of 1796-dated coins.

One of the most beautiful was a 1796 Capped Bust, Stars on Obverse gold $2.50 quarter eagle graded Mint State 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service that realized $456,000 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Rarities Night sale on Aug. 17.

Two design subtypes were minted in 1796 — one with obverse stars and the other without — with the “Red Book” stating a mintage of just 432 Stars on Obverse quarter eagles.

The subject lot was offered in 1926 by Massachusetts coin dealer Elmer Snow Sears. The cataloger writes, “When and under what circumstances Sears acquired this coin are unknown. Was it set aside from his dealer stock as a personal favorite? Did it cross Sears’ path after his retirement and provided the opportunity for him to make a special numismatic sale? Or maybe Sears acquired the coin with the specific intention of including it in his personal collection. We will never know.”

It was acquired by the consignor in the 1970s and had been off the market since that time.

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