US Coins

New variety a surprise for gold $2.50 coin

Dec. 14 update: According to author Jacob Lipson, the coin has now been debunked. He writes in an email: “Unfortunately, [I was] sent an email this morning showing that this is not a new die variety. Instead, it is an altered 1843-O quarter eagle (Variety 5). The other so-called 1843-C Small Date, Large C variant I reported seeing in the article was another altered 1843-O (Variety 4). The alteration was indistinguishable to me and the other catalogers who looked at the coin. Both examples were certified by NGC and NCS. identified as an altered 1843-O Coronet quarter eagle.”

A new die marriage has been identified for the 1843-C Coronet, Small Date gold quarter eagle.

For decades hobbyists have known that quarter eagles were struck at the Charlotte Mint in 1843 in two distinct varieties: Small Date and Large Date. The Small Date variety claims a mintage of 2,988 pieces, while the Large Date variety was struck to the significantly greater extent of 23,076 coins. 

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In the 2008 edition of Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861, Doug Winter ranked the 1843-C Coronet, Small Date quarter eagle first in overall rarity out of 20 Charlotte Mint quarter eagles and fourth in high grades. He explained: “The 1843-C Small Date remains the rarest Charlotte quarter eagle. It went unrecognized as a rare issue until the late 1950s/early 1960s when it was first publicized by New Netherlands Coin Company in their auction catalogs. Today, it is regarded as one of the most desirable coins struck at the Charlotte Mint.”

Concerning production of the 1843-C Coronet, Small Date quarter eagle, researchers were in agreement that one set of dies was used. Walter Breen wrote in his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia, “Delivered April 28, from a single pair of dies shipped Dec. 23, 1842.” He described the obverse as having a Crosslet 4 in the date and a Small C Mint mark. Breen’s account of a single die pair shipped in late December 1842 is confirmed in the Branch Mint die shipment ledger for the period 1839 to 1854. 

Like Breen, Winter cited the existence of a single die pair 20 years later, in 2008. He identified it as Variety 1 (formerly Variety 4-C in previous editions of his Charlotte Mint reference). The obverse shows the 1 close to the bust and positioned above the space between two dentils. The reverse features a Small C Mint mark with the top serif joined with the arrow feathers. The lower serif is roughly aligned with the top of the fraction bar. Most examples of Variety 1 are from a later state of the dies, showing a crack from the rim at 7 o’clock to the tip of Liberty’s bust. Representatives without this crack are rare. Winter also writes, “Early strikes show light die scratches outside of the final three stars on the obverse.”

A new die pair

There was never any reason to expect more than a single pair of dies was used to coin 1843-C Coronet, Small Date quarter eagles, given the issue’s paltry mintage. However, this author discovered an entirely new variety on Nov. 6 while cataloging lot 3697 for Heritage Auctions’ upcoming Beverly Hills Signature sale, to be held Dec. 12 to 15, 2018.

The discovery coin has a Small Date with the 1 centered directly over a dentil and the Crosslet 4 over the space between two dentils. The 1 is further from the bust truncation and positioned marginally further left. The reverse displays a Large C Mint mark with the tail of the C extending past the fraction bar in the denomination.

We at Heritage believe this new die pair is extremely rare. A search through Heritage’s Permanent Auction Archives reveals 54 appearances of the 1843-C Small Date quarter eagle that include lot images. Of those imaged appearances dating back to 1999, only two represent Variety 2, and they are actually two appearances of the same coin. (Note that for both listings the coin was mistakenly cataloged as Variety 1.) In other words, we have been able to trace only one other 1843-C Coronet, Small Date quarter eagle struck from this die pair.

Why is this die pair so difficult to locate? The reverses of both known Variety 2 representatives paint a pretty clear picture. Each shows extensive die breaks, starting from the final S in STATES through OF AMERICA to the D in the denomination. It is likely that the die was improperly annealed and quickly broke. The reverse was discarded as unusable, and the obverse was set aside at the same time, for reasons unknown. Then, the second set of dies was used to strike the vast majority of coins delivered on April 28. 

In her 1988 book, The United States Branch Mint at Charlotte North Carolina, Clair Birdsall explains that after the first coinage of quarter eagles in April 1843, Chief Coiner John R. Bolton “reported that both dies were ‘failing by cracking’ during this coinage of 2,988 Quarter Eagles. He requested another pair of dies. Unfortunately, the die records at Philadelphia show no data concerning the second shipment of 1843 dies to Charlotte.” 

It seems likely that Bolton was referring to the reverse of Variety 2 and the obverse of Variety 1, and as a result new Large Date dies were sent from the Philadelphia Mint.

This exciting new discovery confirms there are new finds out there waiting to be made in the popular realm of Branch Mint gold. 

Thanks to Roger Burdette and Brian Koller for their contributions. 

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