Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green (better known as Col. E.H.R. Green or, more simply, Col. Green), was the son of Henrietta Howland Robinson Green, née Henrietta Howland Robinson (1834-1916). She, too, is known more simply as Hetty Green, and even more familiarly as the “Witch of Wall Street.” Hetty Green was connected on the Howland side of her family to one of the great merchant families of New England. She grew up in a Quaker household, noted for its austerity.
Upon their deaths in 1865, her father and maternal aunt willed to her a total of about $10 million. Even after her 1867 marriage to Edward H. Green, she kept her finances separate, managing them herself with single-minded monomania. Her father and grandfather had educated her in finance from early childhood, and she dedicated herself to expanding that fortune. As her wealth increased, she continued to live with her son and daughter in modest surroundings, avoiding all social contacts or displays of wealth. In time she became a major force on Wall Street, despite which she often appeared in public in shabby garb and sought medical treatment for herself at charity clinics. She left an estate valued at more than $100 million when she died in 1916, reputedly the world’s richest woman.
“Extremely rare grade and one of two finest known of just three, possibly four known in full Mint State. Certainly the most famous specimen and long thought to be clearly the finest.”
The most often-repeated story concerning her penury is that concerning her son Edward, whom she refused to take for medical treatment, resulting in the need for his leg to be amputated. Col. Green was born the year following Hetty’s marriage to Edward Green, during his parents’ tour of Europe.
By age 25, Col. Green had been admitted to the bar and become president of the Texas Midland Railroad (his mother Hetty had owned many railroad stocks during her lifetime). He was active in Texas Republican politics, served as chairman of the Texas Republican State Committee, and was a director of the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. In order to maintain a Texas residence, he kept a suit of clothes and one of his wooden legs in a “fine residence” in Terrell, Texas. He died at age 68 in Lake Placid, New York.
At the time of his death–with a total estate valued at more than $40 million–his coin collection was valued at an estimated $5 million, along with a stamp collection worth $3.5 million. Green’s numismatic holdings included at least seven different 1838-O half dollars, a Brasher doubloon, all five of the 1913 Liberty nickels, and a staggering hoard of 1796 quarters, said to number more than 200 pieces.
This wonderful coin, also pedigreed to the Col. Green collection of early quarters, is the Browning-1 variety, with the 4 in the date low and a die cut between stars 8 and 9 seen on all examples. Although not as famous (because neither a single-year type nor a first year of issue) as the 1796 quarters, the 1804 quarters are many times rarer in Mint State than the 1796 pieces.
This coin is sharply struck, save for at some of the denticles, as usually seen, and wonderful steel-blue and pinkish-purple iridescent patina covers both sides. Bold die clashing is visible along the upper bustline, creating a “collar” effect on Liberty similar to the 1800 BB-196 Bust dollar variety. Lesser (but still dramatic) clashing is visible on the reverse as well.
As of (10/10) NGC has certified 31 Mint State 1796 quarters, compared only five Mint State 1804s, of which this is the single finest by two grade points. At PCGS, there are 33 Mint State 1796 quarters, compared with only eight Mint State 1804s. This is the single finest 1804 quarter certified at either NGC or PCGS.
By way of further comparison, there are 15 Mint State 1796-97 Small Eagle half dollars (long acknowledged as the rarest silver type coin) certified at NGC, along with nine Mint State Small Eagle halves at PCGS. This is, in conclusion, a monumental early Bust quarter, a coin whose rarity, historicity, and numismatic importance simply cannot be overstated.
Ex: Col. E.H.R. Green; Stack’s (1945); Jerome Kern Collection (B. Max Mehl, 1950), lot 1385; Eugene Gardner Collection (Stack’s, 2/1965), lot 1620; H. Philip Speir estate (Stack’s, 3/1974), lot 2, which brought $16,500; 1975 ANA Sale (Superior, 8/1975), lot 352, which realized $10,500; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2274, which realized $310,500. From The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two. (#5312)
This coin is being sold at auction in the 2011 January Tampa FUN Signature & Platinum Night sale #1151 as Lot 14022