By Bill Shamhart - Numismatic Americana Inc.
Numismatic Americana Incorporated has recently acquired the finest known 1896-O Barber quarter. Graded MS 67 by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and displaying the coveted seal of approval by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), this lightly toned unusually sharply struck specimen is without a doubt the finest available specimen on the market today.
Long considered to be an extreme rarity in high grade by both collectors of the series and dealers alike, it stands amongst the top four dates in terms of scarcity and desirability.
There are three areas of information that should be used to evaluate this date. They are as follow;
PCGS’ Population Report:
The 1896-O, along with the 1896-S, 1901-S, and 1913-S are the most sought after dates in the series (in high grade). An analysis is below:
1896-O has a population of 7 MS 65, 3 MS 66 and this the sole MS 67, for a total of 11 Gems known.
1896-S has a population of 9 MS 65 and 1 MS 66, for a total of 10 Gems known.
1901-S has a population of 7 MS 65, 3 MS 66, 3 MS 67, and a lone MS 68+ (a coin we sold earlier in 2010 for excess of $400,000), for a total of 14 Gems known.
1913-S has a population of 18 MS 65, 11 MS 66, 1 MS 66+, 3 MS 67, and 1 MS 68 for a total of 34 Gems known.
With the above information, it is clear that the 1896-O is as rare, or rarer, than any of the other big 3.
PCGS Set Registry:
Looking at the set registry we find the following:
Experts at PCGS list the 1896-O in the top 6 most difficult dates to acquire. In fact, John Feigenbaum, specialist in the series and son of well respected author David Lawence (who wrote THE book on Barber quarters) had this to say about the 1896-O:
“The 1896-O is one of our favorite dates in the entire Barber quarter series and especially rare (and underrated!) in the highest of grades, owing in large part to the dearth of high quality manufacturing at the New Orleans Mint in that era. Coins are typically found with below-average strike and high grade specimens were clearly not saved. Ironically, I now find that it can often be harder to find a high grade 1896-O that the more celebrated key issues (like 96-S, 01-S and 13-S).
The All Time Finest Registry sets had the following grades for an 1896-O:
The Sunnywood Collection ( #1 set): MS 66
Louis Eliasberg (#2 set): MS 65 (estimated grade)
Allen Harriman ( #3 set): MS 65 (estimated grade)
Michael Hayes (#4 set): AU 58
Dr. and Mrs. Steven Duckor (#5 set): MS 66 (this is also the Eliasberg coin listed above as an estimated MS 65)
Even the current set with the highest grade point average, doesn’t have an 1896-O. Clearly finding a true GEM example of this date was and still remains a challenge for students of the series.
The last auction appearance for a high grade GEM was an MS 66 in July of 2009, in the mist of uncertain economic times. It still brought $20,700. The last appearance before then was 7 years ago, in May of 2003.
Comparatively the following examples of the other tough dates have sold at auction as follows:
1896-S: The last time an MS 66 sold was 13 years ago, and it brought $25,300. More importantly in MS 65 an example sold for $40,250 in April of 2009, prior to that another MS 65 example sold for $56,925 in May 2008. There are no MS 67’s graded to compare auction records with.
1901-S: An MS 67 example sold in January, 2005, for $149,500, and we (Numismatic Americana) sold the lone MS 68+ privately in excess of $400,000.
1913-S: At the top of the population, an MS 68 sold in April of 2009 for $86,250. Earlier in January, 2005, the same specimen sold for an astounding $172,500. The second finest graded specimen (MS 67) sold for $60,375 in July, 2009; again in a softer market. And remember, there are 34 specimens in MS 65 or better for collectors to choose from.
Using the above information, we can clearly see that this 1896-O is a special coin, and that the opportunity to own it is unprecedented.