Not Fully Appreciated, Norweb 1796 Quarter Sells for $411,250

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #240

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds......

At the recently concluded Long Beach Expo, Heritage conducted a surprisingly large auction extravaganza, less than one month after the conclusion of the ANA Convention in Illinois, which included auction extravaganzas by Heritage and by Stack’s-Bowers. Such extravaganzas feature U.S. coins, world coins, paper money and a variety of other items. In terms of public attention, the star of the auction of U.S. coins at this Long Beach Expo has perhaps been overlooked, the Norweb 1796 quarter, a coin that should be famous.

This is one of the most noteworthy and appealing of all 1796 quarters. Further, it was, in the past, in one of the greatest collections of all time, that of the Norweb family. B&M of New Hampshire sold this quarter in March 1988 for $36,300, during the second of three auction events devoted to U.S. coins and related items from the Norweb family.

The Norweb 17Norweb96Obv96 quarter is PCGS graded MS-65 and has very pleasing toning that is indisputably natural. Further, almost zero contact marks are evident under five-times magnification. This coin is very much technically sound. If the Norweb 1796 quarter was a little livelier, there would be near-unanimous agreement among experts that it would qualify for at least a MS-66 grade.

In my view, it is superb ‘as is.’ Indeed, it is nearly flawless, very attractive and scores very high in the category of originality.

“ I really liked the quality of that coin" declares Jason Carter. “The strike was amazing and it was completely original. Also, I have to say the Norweb pedigree is one of the best in my Norweb96Revopinion. I always stop and take notice when Norweb coins come around,” Jason adds, “and look to handle them whenever possible.” Carter is one of the nation’s leading graders and traders of high quality, classic U.S. coins.

It is hardly surprising that the Norweb 1796 quarter realized more, $411,250, last week, than it did when Heritage auctioned it in Aug. 2010 for $322,000, an amount which was then an auction record for a 1796 quarter. Since 2010, the Newman and Eliasberg 1796 quarters have sold for amounts that are much greater than $411,250. (Clickable links are in blue.) Comparatively, the result for the Norweb 1796 is moderate and a good value.

In this same auction event, Heritage also sold a 1796 quarter that had been holed and plugged. It is in a PCGS genuine holder and realized $2585.

I. The first year of U.S. Quarters

Quarters of this date are extremely special for several reasons. These are the first issue of U.S. quarters.

Among silver coins, U.S. half dimes, half dollars and silver dollars were all first minted in 1794 and were all minted for more than one year during the 1790s. Curiously, there were half dimes before there were dimes, which were not minted until 1796, though continued to be minted in 1797 and 1798. Large cents and half cents were first struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1793. Gold coins were not struck until 1795, when Half Eagles ($5 gold coins) and Eagles ($10 coins) were minted. Quarter Eagles followed in 1796. Unlike quarter-dollars, however, coins of all these other denominations were made after 1796 and before 1800.

It is noteworthy that quarters were minted during just one year during the 1790s. In another words, no genuine U.S. quarters are dated 1797, 1798 or 1799. The 1796 is the only 18th century U.S. quarter issue. Indeed, the next issue of quarters was not until 1804 and those are rare.

Many collectors have a particular fondness for 18th century U.S. coins. Indeed, these have a greater effect upon the emotions of history-minded collectors. Besides, during the 1790s, the U.S. was a struggling young nation. George Washington was inaugurated as the first U.S. President in 1789 and started his second term in 1793.

The 1790s were a difficult and crucial time for the U.S. Many leaders in Europe doubted that the U.S. would survive as a unified, independent nation. The Articles of Confederation had been a framework for a loose federation, not a strong nation. The U.S. Constitution had been ratified in June 1788 and had not yet stood a test of much time.

George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States which took place on April 30, 1789

George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States which took place on April 30, 1789

Despite the ratification of a treaty that required recognition of the independence of the U.S., political tensions between the U.S. and Great Britain were very serious and relations with France soured badly. The political climate of the 1790s was tense, scary and exciting. A new and extremely distinctive nation was surviving a dangerous childhood.

Overall, collectors regard 1796 quarters has having greater significance than later issues of quarters. Besides, Washington Quarters, which have been minted, in various forms, from 1932 to the present, are among the most avidly collected of all coins. Unsurprisingly, many people who collect Washington Quarters would like to own a 1796 quarter, as all 1796 quarters were minted while George Washington himself was president!

II. One-year only Type Coins

Draped Bust obverse (head), Small Eagle reverse (tail) quarters are all dated 1796. The representation of an eagle on the reverse (back of the coin) is not truly small. This reverse design is called a ‘small eagle’ to distinguish it from Heraldic Eagle reverse designs that were adopted at different times for all silver or gold denominations produced during the early era of the Philadelphia Mint.

Draped Bust, Small Eagle Quarters were not minted after 1796. Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Quarters were minted from 1804 to 1807. The Heraldic Eagle motif features a shield on its chest and is larger than the so-called ‘Small Eagle’ design element that was employed just in 1796 on quarters.

So, 1796 quarters constitute a one-year only type. Over the last thirty-five years, as the costs of collecting early U.S. series ‘by date’ increased, more and more collectors have chosen to assembly type sets, rather than ‘date sets.’ For a type set, only one coin of each design type is needed and that one coin need not be one of the rarest dates. In the case of a one-year type, however, a coin of a specific date is needed for a complete type set. “As a one-year type coin, I expect the 1796 quarter to be an issue that will always be in strong demand,” remarks Jason Carter.

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1 Comment on "Not Fully Appreciated, Norweb 1796 Quarter Sells for $411,250"

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  1. Alan V. Weinberg says:

    I’m sorry but the 1796 quarter in Mint State is not a rarity, not even close.
    All you need to acquire a nice one is to have the money. Not even patience or luck. Is the current market value worth it? I remind readers of the often related in print story from Abe Kosoff that back in the 1940’s he was offered in one instance over 100 mint state and prooflike 1796 quarters from the Virgil Brand estate at well under $50 apiece.

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