Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 48

Lot 1226

1808 $2.50 Capped Bust. NGC graded AU-55. Well struck on a far better than average planchet with the only defect a minor imperfection at stars 8 thru 10. Untoned with plenty of mint luster to justify this lofty grade. Only 2710 struck and always in great demand as a one year type.

The reason for the short duration of the rare and coveted "Capped Draped Bust" quarter eagle is this: Shortly after the Philadelphia Mint began striking the coin, it ceased quarter eagle production entirely due to lack of demand from bullion depositors. When production of quarter eagles resumed 12 years later in 1821, new designs had been introduced for half eagles of 1813 through 1820, which designs the quarter eagle copied. (Sharing designs among different denominations of the same metallic content had a long tradition at the United States Mint.)

The engraver responsible for the 1808 Capped Draped Bust Left design (as it is called) was John Reich, a German who sold himself into indentured service in order to travel to the United States. Reich became an assistant engraver at the Mint in 1807 and assisted the aging Robert Scot with design and die preparation. It was Reich who was mainly responsible for the designs used on the 1808 quarter eagle (first for the half eagle, on which they were introduced in 1807).

On the obverse, Liberty faces left, wearing a soft cap similar to the fashionable headgear worn by women of the day. It is inscribed LIBERTY on the headband. Her bust is lightly draped (the cap and drapery give the coin one of its names). The reverse first used on the half eagle in 1807 as well, and on the quarter eagle in 1808, has an eagle with its wings outstretched, head over its shoulder. It grasps an olive branch (representing peace) in the right claw and three arrows in the left (for war). The eagle's head direction towards the olive branch implies a preference for peace in heraldry. A shield overlays the eagle's breast. The denomination appears below. This is the first instance of a denomination on a U.S. gold coin.

Reich made this single obverse and reverse die pair for the quarter eagle. Once he finished the dies production occurred early in the year; the 2,710 coins were all delivered February 26, 1808. No more were produced. Pop 5; 30 finer (PCGS # 7660) .
Estimated Value $100,000 - 110,000.


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