The Liberty Quarter Eagle
The Liberty Quarter Eagle, which carried a face value of $2.50, was issued from 1840 through 1907. It holds the unique distinction of being the longest-lived American coin design. Neither the obverse nor the reverse was modified one bit over the coin’s life span. Some might believe the Lincoln Cent holds this record, as its obverse has not changed for 107 years, but the Lincoln “penny” has undergone numerous changes on the reverse.
The coin was struck at five different mints: Philadelphia (1840-1907), Charlotte (1840-1860), Dahlonega (1840-1859), New Orleans (1840-1857) and San Francisco (1854-1879). For many years it was the smallest circulating United States gold coin, as the Gold Dollar was only issued from 1849 through 1889. It was a staple of everyday commerce; Quarter Eagles were more likely to be encountered in circulation compared to the larger gold denominations.
Liberty Quarter Eagles were finally discontinued in 1908 when it was replaced by the Indian Quarter Eagle. President Theodore Roosevelt felt that America’s gold coins had become stale – and the Liberty Quarter Eagle was a perfect example. After decades of production without any modification whatsoever, the coin was in dire need of a refresh.
The series contains a number of major rarities, the most famous of which are the 1841, 1854-S and 1863 issues. The 1841 Liberty Quarter Eagle had a tiny mintage of just 20 pieces; specimens now command well over $100,000 at auction. The 1854-S is even scarcer despite having a higher mintage of 246 coins. Just a dozen coins are believed to exist today. Depending on grade, these are worth $250,000 to $400,000. The 1863 Quarter Eagle is a rare proof-only issue with a reported mintage of 30 coins.
On the other end of the price spectrum, many dates can be had in lightly circulated condition for under $400. Even low-end uncirculated pieces are available in the $500-$750 range. This is especially true for dates in the 1895-1907 range. Even Superb Gem specimens are seen with regularity. Nearly-perfect coins graded MS67 appear on the market frequently and only sell for $3000-$5000 depending on date.
The $2.50 Liberty Quarter Eagle was also struck in proof format. Dates from the 1840s through 1870s are extremely rare (and valuable), but the later dates are somewhat more affordable. A small number of virtually perfect proofs have been certified by PCGS and NGC at the Proof 68 and Proof 69 levels. These stunning pieces exhibit deep, reflective fields and intensely frosted design features.