The 1846-C Quarter Eagle: The “Southern Darling” of U.S. Coins

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Photo: Jan 2012 Fun Heritage Auction Lot # 4750

By Timothy O'Fallon - Gibraltar Coins & Precious Metals ........
 

On July 27, 1844, some students were taking an impromptu tour of the U.S. Mint facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Mint had been producing gold coins with the legendary "C" mint mark for less than seven years, and the students wanted to see the machinery that refined and struck the southern money. Since the North Carolina gold rush began after a 1799 discovery, gold had been pouring out of the region - and the United States wanted the miners to convert as much of it as possible into beautiful U.S. Liberty $2.50 coins and $5.00 coins.

No one knows what was going through the minds of those curious students that hot summer day. Were they up to mischief? Were they working for the Bechtler family, whose local private mint was threatened by the growing success of the government facility? Were they simply innocent tourists?

We know only two facts. First, they were smoking inside the building. Second, by late that same day, the Charlotte Mint had burned to the ground.

The great fire of 1844 could have spelled the end of the Charlotte Mint, but on March 3, 1845, the U.S. Congress set aside funds to rebuild it. Since the Mint building wasn't complete until October of 1846, no coins were struck bearing the "C" mint mark in 1845 at all... and precious few for 1846.

To satisfy local demand, the Charlotte Mint primarily produced $5 "Half Eagles" that year, managing to mint nearly 13,000 coins. A few $2.50 "Quarter Eagles" were also produced as well: just 4,808 of them. In the years to follow, most of these were melted or damaged in some way, leaving only 100-150 of these $2.50 specimens for collectors and investors today.

Of these few, I estimate only 29 have survived in "AU" or "About Uncirculated" condition, undamaged and unmolested.

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Photo: Jan 2012 Fun Heritage Auction Lot # 4750

The 1846-C Quarter Eagle is among the most interesting and desirable of U.S. Coins, from its historical context to the minute details of its surface and die characteristics. It is believed that the dies for these coins were shipped from Philadelphia to Charlotte before 1846, so they arrived in Charlotte long before the Mint building was complete.

For some reason, officials left the dies out in the elements, and in the months before October the dies suffered some pretty serious rust. When the rust was cleaned off them prior to use, small dimples were left in the dies - dimples which appear as raised "beauty marks" on the coins themselves, especially around the date.

Also, early in production it appears that the obverse and reverse dies must have clashed with no gold planchet in the proper place,  so on subsequent coins the marks from this clash can be seen from the Eagle's beak to its wing, and around the arrows in its claws.

The 1846-C Quarter Eagle is the ninth coin in the set of 20 different Charlotte $2.50 Gold coins, and in my opinion the second or third rarest in the set - but perhaps the most interesting of all.

Because of her history and rarity,  trials and charming imperfections, I call the 1846-Charlotte Quarter Eagle the "Southern Darling" of U.S. coins.

While About Uncirculated examples can trade in the $6,500 to $16,000.00 range, she is extremely difficult to locate at any price. For the few of you who do find one, I urge you to appreciate her story as an allegory of the American South.

Do you have questions about coins from the Charlotte Mint? Would you like me to help you build a set or find a coin? Feel free to contact us HERE or email Tim@GibraltarCoins.com.
 

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