Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 48

Lot 1221

1796 $2.50 Capped Bust. No stars. PCGS graded AU-58 PQ. The more "plentiful" of the two die varities for the type, if such a word is appropriate for this prestigious numismatic gold coin. Well struck on a mostly problem-free planchet. We note a few very minor hairline adjustment marks in the unprotected right obverse field and these are well concealed by the lovely rich natural golden toning. The reverse is brilliant and semi prooflike. A Premium Quality coin for the given grade.

It is believed -- based upon estimates by Walter Breen -- that only 963 examples were struck of the first quarter eagle. Interestingly, these were of a one-off design, a motif that would be discontinued after these 963 coins left the press. Within this small population there are two die varieties -- two different reverse dies differing from each other only by minute details.

Believed to have been designed by Robert Scot, the 1796 quarter eagle features the capped head ("bust") of Liberty facing right. The field is plain, framed only by a low raised rim, with the date 1796 below the bust.

The reverse is of the Large or Heraldic Eagle design similar to the one used on all gold and silver denominations of the period. It was adapted from the Great Seal of the United States. The main motif depicts an eagle with a shield on its breast, holding an olive branch and arrows in its claws, and in its beak a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. An array of stars lies above, with clouds forming an arc from one wing to the other. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds. There is no mark indicating the denomination.

Of the 963 pieces believed to have been minted, it has been estimated by David Akers, a student of the subject, that perhaps as many as 30 to 40 survive today, although other estimates put the number lower, into the range of 15 to 20 pieces. Others have suggested the 100 mark. Irrespective of which estimate one chooses, the 1796 quarter eagle is famous as an elusive and sought-after early Capped Bust American gold coin. Pop 13; 3 in 61, 3 in 62, 1 in 65. (PCGS # 7645) .
Estimated Value $175,000 - 200,000.


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