Engraver Christian Gobrecht’s Liberty Seated motif was first seen in 1836 on the silver dollar, and in 1837 on the half dime and dime. The design was applied to the quarter in 1838, though the year has both this type and the previous Capped Bust type. The first half dime and dime issues did not have stars surrounding Liberty on the obverse field, matching the original dollars of 1836. However, to conform to Mint policy of having standard designs on coins made from the same metal, stars were added to the obverse of dollars, dimes, and half dimes in 1838. The first Seated quarters minted in 1838 also display stars, as do the first Seated half dollars produced in 1839. Quarters produced in the first three years of the type did however have another design distinction, apparent only in comparison to issues produced from later 1840 forward (1840-dated issues exist in both types). Robert Ball Hughes, a sculptor originally from London, was hired in late 1840 to make modifications to Liberty on the Seated design. Along with other changes, Hughes added extra drapery that extended from Liberty’s left elbow down over her knee. This earlier No Drapery type does not have that drapery, nor Hughes’ other changes, but the lack of drapery has become the identifier of the type.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
On the obverse is a full-length representation of Liberty wearing long, flowing robes, seated on a rock, and head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. Inside dentils along the raised rim 13 stars form a partial circle, seven to the left of Liberty, one between Liberty’s head and the Liberty cap, and five to the right of the cap.
The reverse has a centered left-facing eagle, with extended but partly folded wings. The eagle clutches three arrows in the left claw and an olive branch in the right. A Union shield is placed over the chest. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA forms a concentric arc inside of the top two-thirds of the dentils circling the rim, with the denomination of QUAR. DOL. at the bottom visually completing the circle. Liberty Seated quarters were minted at Philadelphia and New Orleans; the O mintmark is located above QUAR. DOL., below the crossed ends of the branch and the arrows.
Only a few hundred business strike No Drapery Seated quarters have been certified for each year the type was produced, with the 1840-O pieces the scarcer issues. Prices are modest to AU55, expensive to near-Gem, and very expensive as Gem and finer. New Orleans 1840 issues are more expensive as Select Uncirculated and finer. Twenty specimen pieces were sent by Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson to the Treasury Secretary. It is not known whether these coins were technically proofs, but census/ population reports currently list two examples, one dated 1838, the other dated 1839, though some scholars question the validity of a proof designation for any quarter of the type. Nonetheless, Seated quarters designated proof are extremely expensive, with prices at a half million dollars or more at grades of near-Gem and finer.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from Thomas Sully sketches; reverse after John Reich and William Kneass.
Circulation Mintage: high 491,146 (1839), low 382,200 (1840-O)
Proof Mintage: no more than 20
Denomination: Twenty-five cents (25/100)
Diameter: 24.3 mm; reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 6.68 grams
Varieties: Only a couple of minor die variations have been identified.
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
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