The D. Brent Pogue Collection

backSuperb Gem 1796 Quarter Dollar

Lot 1051
Premium Gem 1796 Quarter Dollar

Prooflike Rarity
Ex: James Ten Eyck (1922)
High Condition Census

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1796 Draped Bust Quarter Dollar. B-2. Rarity-3. MS-66 (PCGS). Only one graded finer and only by a single point.
When B. Max Mehl described this very coin in 1922 he said: “Broad milled borders. Beautiful Proof. Well struck up. Rare.” In our sale of the Milton Holmes Collection, cataloger Norman Stack expanded with this: “Perfect brilliant Proof! A flawless gem that could possibly be matched by one or two others offered in the last 30 years—certainly no finer can exist. Sharp, well struck with perfect milled borders and just about equal to any modern Brilliant Proof in appearance. An unusually bold impression with sharp eagle on reverse. Delightful blue tinge of iridescence.”

Of all “popular” rarities among United States coins the 1796 quarter is one of the most important and most desired. On an absolute scale this variety is listed as Rarity-3 on the Sheldon scale, meaning that 201 to 500 are estimated to exist, in this case probably closer to 500. The vast majority of these show varying degrees of circulation; however, prooflike coins exist, and over the years a number of major collections have included examples, as here.

Modern scholarship has suggested that Proofs deliberately made as such from highly polished dies and using specially prepared planchets were not made until the late 1810s. The earliest full Proof set of various denominations in the Mint Cabinet is dated 1821. That said, certain earlier coins such as this 1796 quarter closely resemble full Proofs and are often described as prooflike by Catalogers and other numismatic experts.

The magical attraction of the 1796 quarter rarity is its position as the very first issue of the twenty-five cent denomination and the only year in which the Draped Bust obverse was combined with the Small Eagle reverse. The low mintage figure of only 6,146 coins is another magnet. After that there were no further quarters minted until 1804, at which time the Heraldic Eagle reverse was used.

The 1796 quarter and nearly all other early copper, silver, and gold coins dated from 1794 to 1807 were the work of Robert Scot, who came to Philadelphia from England circa 1783 and was listed in a 1791 directory as an engraver. Hired at the Mint in 1793, he apparently continued his private business on the side, as evidenced by a 1797 directory entry for him as “engraver and copper plate printer.” Today, his signature can be found on a few prints and maps of that era.

From circa 1794 into the next decade Scot made plates for Rees Encyclopaedia, a popular reference of the time. In later years, Scot, apparently busy with private commissions and attending to his Mint job only desultorily, was assisted by others, including John Smith Gardner, who worked for a few years beginning in 1794, and Moritz Fürst, who in the early 19th century made high-quality dies for medals at the Mint. In 1807 John Reich was hired as an assistant engraver, having worked on contract projects earlier. The Flowing Hair and Draped Bust designs of the earlier years stand as testimony to Scot’s talent.

Today this Gem remains as attractive and desirable as ever, sure to be a treasure in the collection of its next owner.

Provenance: From B. Max Mehl’s sale of the James Ten Eyck Collection, May 1922, lot 507; sale of the Milton A. Holmes Collection, October 1960, lot 2918 (subtitled: ‘1796 Brilliant Proof Gem’); 55th Anniversary Sale, October 1990, lot 1634.

Rarities Auction Accompanying the D. Brent Pogue Collection

Stack’s Bowers Galleries will be hosting an exclusive Rarities Auction, held in conjunction with The D. Brent Pogue Collection. We will be accepting limited consignments of United States and world coins and paper money, featured in a spectacular catalog reserved for the rarest of the rare. Special terms will apply. If you are interested in participating in this unique opportunity, please call 949-748-4849 or email us at [email protected].

Alternatively, you can fill out our online consignment form. Click here to view the form.