The last Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle quarter dollar was minted in 1807, the same year that German immigrant John Reich was hired by the U.S. Mint. Tasked with creating new coinage designs, Reich modified Liberty’s portrait and the reverse eagle, producing designs that appeared on the half dollar and half eagle in 1807, the quarter eagle in 1808, and then the dime in 1809. After a seven-year gap in production, the quarter dollar was minted with these new designs in 1815. Continuing a Mint policy of using the same design on all coins as much as possible, the half dime also received the Draped Bust design, in 1829, but it was never used on the silver dollar, which had not been produced since 1804.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
Quarters were not regularly minted in the early 1800s because the demand for the denomination was limited. Spanish two-reales pieces were still a common circulating coin at the time, with the same legal tender value as the quarter, but the reales were lighter weight. The result of this same denomination circulating coinage was inevitable: the Spanish coins were used in commerce but the U.S. coins were saved because they contained more silver. The 1815 quarter mintage happened only because banks had ordered them and not, as far as we know, because of a federal interest in increasing their use (over 20 percent of the 1815 mintage went to one bank, the Planters’ Bank of New Orleans). Production was further compromised by a fire at the Mint in early January, 1816, which halted the mintage of gold and silver coins. Quarters were not produced again until 1818, and except for 1826, yearly thereafter until the end of the type in 1828.
The obverse portrait is of a more fulsome Liberty than the previous Draped Bust style, which led to unfortunate, though unsubstantiated, comments that Reich had modeled Liberty after his “fat mistress.” Liberty is wearing a mobcap (a fashionable woman’s headdress of the period, not a liberty cap as it is sometimes erroneously labeled) with a band displaying LIBERTY. Long curling hair drapes over the forehead, around the ear, across the shoulders, and down the back. A flowing robe covers the bust and shoulder, fixed with a clasp above the shoulder. Thirteen six-point stars surround the portrait, seven to the left and six to the right, just inside a dentilled rim. The date is centered at the bottom.
The reverse displays a left-facing eagle with outstretched, though partially folded, wings and a Union shield across its breast. The left claw clutches three arrows, the right an olive branch. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles inside the dentilled rim around the top two-thirds of the coin, and the denomination of 25 C. is at the bottom, below the eagle. A concentric banner with E PLURIBUS UNUM is located above the eagle’s head, below STATES OF. All coins were minted at Philadelphia; no mint mark appears on the coins. Some 1815 and 1825 dated quarters have an E or L counterstamp above Liberty’s head, marks unmentioned in official records and purpose unknown. Some have speculated that these letters indicate the use of quarters as school prizes which were saved as keepsakes, thus accounting for the high grade of most survivors.
Prices for business strikes are moderate up to XF grades, advancing steadily and becoming very expensive as Gem and finer. A few hundred pieces have been certified for each year that quarters were produced for circulation, though some varieties are represented by only a few pieces. The 1822 25C over 50C variety is expensive in all grades, and the low mintage 1823/2 overdate extremely expensive. A few prooflike business strikes have been certified. A small number of proofs from each year are listed in census/ population reports, which include pieces with a cameo designation. All proofs are expensive to extremely expensive, with the very rare original 1827/3 at the top of the price range, closely followed by the 1827/3 restrikes.
Designer: John Reich
Circulation Mintage: high 361,174 (1818), low 4,000 (1827, possibly dated 1825; only proof strikes are known for the date. Next lowest was 17,800 coins in 1823)
Proof Mintage: high 30-40 (1827, estimated), low 5 (1823 and 1824, estimated. None known for 1815, 1818, and 1819)
Denomintion: $0.25 Twenty-five cents (25/100)
Diameter: ±27 mm, reeded edge
Metal content: 89.24% silver, 10.76% copper
Weight: ±6.74 grams
Varieties:Several are known, most overdates or overpunches, but also including variations such as the 1819 Large and Small 9 varieties, and the 1820 Large and Small O varieties. Other well-known varieties include the 1818/5, 1822 25C over 50C, 1823/2, 1824/2, 1825/2, 1825/3, 1825/4, 1827/3 (proof) and 1828 25C over 50C. All known 1823 and 1824 quarters are overdates. The 1827 restrikes are well known because of the rarity of issues for the year, and were most likely surreptitiously made in the late 1850s, some with rusted dies and some overstruck on older quarters (a piece struck on an 1806 quarter is known). Quarters dated 1815 and 1825 (including 1825 overpunch varieties) are often seen with E and L counterpunches, likely private marks rather than Mint-produced.
Additional Resources :
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
Early United States Quarters 1796-1838. Steve Tompkins.
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.