Glorious quality and eye appeal as the fields fall away from the highly frosted devices. Delicate copper-gold toning is noted in the reflectivity and the visual contrast is exceptional. The strike is sharp on the devices with just a hint of softness on Liberty's head near the top, and around the shield border held by the eagle. Known Proofs of this year number between six and ten, with half of these using the head of 1835, while this example is a head of 1836 (both ribbons showing clearly). Simply put, the preservation level is as close to perfection as any specialist could hope to acquire. Identifiable by a minor toning speck in the upper reverse field just below the second T of STATES.
Any offering of a Proof Classic Head quarter eagle is a treat in itself as the rarities are seldom seen at all, and tend to stay tucked away in great collections for many years at a stretch. The pedigree of this piece attests to its quality and desirability.
The obverse head is that of 1837, believed to have been engraved by Christian Gobrecht after Chief Engraver's Kneass's stroke in 1835. All seen have the striking softness noted on the upper curls of Liberty above her eye. Of the handful known in Proof, it is interesting that different dies and head punch styles were used to create these prized rarities. Perhaps ten are known of the various 1836 dated dies with heads of 1835, 1836 and 1837 known in Proof, each represented by three or four coins at most. One is known in the Smithsonian, the balance held in the most famous collections in American history.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
How nice it is to see this grand coin again, an old friend with a wonderful pedigree dating back to the Parmelee Collection. If you enjoy numismatic history you might like to acquire a copy of my book American Numismatics Before the Civil War, which tells how Parmelee started. He was a baker of beans in Boston, delivering by wagon crocks of beans to hotels, restaurants and the like. He became interested in numismatics in the 1850s, after which coins became a fascination. His business prospered, enabling him to buy several intact collections, strip out the pieces he needed, and consign the others for auction. The most famous of these was the Ira Bushnell Collection, most of which was auctioned by the Chapman brothers in 1882.
In 1890 Parmelee decided to put his coins up for auction. The trouble was that the great coin boom of the previous decade had run out of steam, what with clouds gathering on the economic horizon, and speculation in the prairie states coming to an end. Buyers were few and far between and the prices realized were less than hoped for, while other coins in the auction were simply bid on by Parmelee himself. In time, the market strengthened, as it always has done, and into the 20th century the Parmelee prices seemed to be great bargains. The other list of owners is also very impressive; much could be said about Mills, Woodin, and Clapp.
Back in 1982 when our firm was awarded the sale of the gold coins by Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr. he wanted to keep them in Baltimore until the actual sale date itself. A photographer was commissioned to take pictures on the site, and I went to Baltimore with a file of index cards and spent several days making notations as to the surface descriptions of each. I then went back to New Hampshire and set about going to work -- writing a book United States Gold Coins: An Illustrated History, as well as, in time, cataloging the Eliasberg Collection. The sale itself broke records left and right and is remembered today as one of the most exciting events in numismatics. It is great to see this coin again, and in advance I congratulate the buyer of it.
NGC Census: 1; none finer.
Ex: Lorin G. Parmelee Collection, 1890; Harlan P. Smith, private sale; John G. Mills Collection, 1904; William H. Woodin; John H. Clapp Collection, 1942; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; and Bowers and Ruddy's sale of the United States Gold Coin Collection (Eliasberg), October 1982, lot 103.