The obverse is very similar to the designs as adapted except for a couple of important changes, the first is the treatment of the olive branch in Liberty's hand, which is larger and has additional leaves that cross above the base of the L(IBERTY), there is no M initial of MacNeil near the date either. For the reverse it is indeed similar to the adopted design but there are two large and long olive branches flanking the eagle, each tied with a fancy ribbon, these were replaced by stars on the adopted design. In addition, the eagle is placed higher in the field somewhat crowding the legends above. Minor repunching is seen on the 6, with the date on the raised platform that later caused design revisions in 1925, as the digits were prone to wearing away. This concept pattern design is believed to have been struck May 23 and June 24, 1916, with just three examples made, two of which are in the Smithsonian Institution in the National Numismatic Collection. Furthermore the surfaces are reflective despite very limited wear, and this is one of the only Proof Standing Liberty quarters that can be obtained by collectors, as no regular issue Proofs were made during the years this series was coined. This concept is the first design struck as a coin of MacNeil's innovative work.
While the changes from the adopted design may not be considered significant, they indeed show the evolution of the concept into coinage form. While World War I raged on in Europe, America was on the sidelines for the time being. Perhaps this was the reason for the attention to detail on the obverse with the enlarged and more complex olive branch--the universal symbol of peace which partially covered the L of LIBERTY. Again the size and stature of the olive branches on the reverse is telling, these two large and intricate extend the full length of the available space between the legends, and their paired leaves and paired olives march up the side of the coin demanding attention, while the elegant ribbon bow flutters in the unseen breeze below the flying eagle. Clearly these branches tell of the desire for peace at a time of World War. Consider too the placement of Liberty's shield, draped and nearly hidden away is her shield of protection, and notably lacking in MacNeil's design is the use of the symbols of war, such as arrows or fasces. This no doubt had some political fallout as America was on the verge of joining the overseas War and did so in 1917 soon after MacNeil's new quarter design entered circulation. Political fallout indeed, Liberty was hardly dressed for war with her drapery exposing her breast and her appearance that of a goddess coming in from the garden. After their initial release these quarters came under the watchful eye of the Suppressors of Vice (the Comstockers) organization which complained about the obscene exposed breast on Liberty. In response, Liberty's breast was not only covered but she suited up in medieval chain mail and was ready to march off to join the rest of the world in their European battles.
The surfaces are generally clean although there are a couple of minor scratches on Liberty's left knee and another in the wall area, mentioned for accuracy. The mirror surfaces are generally intact, and the toning ranges from light silver to tawny-gold in areas. This pattern was likely in the designer's family or someone high up in the Philadelphia Mint, and kept as a keepsake, likely unprotected and frequently admired as it shows evidence of casual handling, as opposed to circulation. It first appeared at auction in the Palace Collections of Egypt of King Farouk in 1954, then in the Abe Kosoff Collection by our (Bowers and Merena) firm, November 1985, then to the Jay Cline Collection sold by Superior in 1990. Its historical significance cannot be overstated and its unique status in collectors hands elevates this rarity to the ultimate level as unique numismatic art.
The coinage of the United States underwent a major renaissance early in the 20th Century. President Theodore Roosevelt started the ball rolling with desire to update the Liberty or Coronet design used on gold coinage since the late 1830s, virtually unchanged for over three generations. The first major change took place in late 1907 with the adoption of the Saint-Gaudens Double eagle and Eagle designs, then came the new revolutionary incuse designs by Bela Lyon Pratt for the Indian half eagle and Indian quarter eagle in 1908. Next came the Lincoln cent in 1909, which replaced the still popular Indian cent of that year. In 1913 the Buffalo nickel was born, continuing the theme of Native Americans depicted on our coins, as they were such an important part of our nations history. Coinage designs had a statutory minimum of 25 years between changes, and the designs of Charles E. Barber, Mint Engraver were not due for replacement until 1917 at the earliest. Barber's continued stature and employment at the Mint was not about to be overlooked. He was understandably proud of his designs on the dime, quarter and half dollar. Nevertheless, the populist tide was turning and once again outside artists were brought in to submit potential new coin designs to replace those of Barber. Adolph Weinman won the competition for the new Mercury dime and Walking Liberty half dollar, both launched in 1916 after coinage of the Barber dime and half dollar ended. For the new quarter design Hermon A. MacNeil submitted his stylized concept for the quarter dollar, and this coin was the first concept issued in coin form that was struck by dies. A few years later in 1921, the Peace silver dollar was adopted after a final flurry of Morgan dollars that were also struck in 1921. This completes the coinage changes of this period of great renaissance and artistic designs that went into circulation.
PCGS Population: 1; none finer, no others outside the Smithsonian known.
Obviously from someone well connected at the Mint or from MacNeil's family; King Farouk, Palace Collections of Egypt, Sotheby's, February 24 to March 6, 1954; Abe Kosoff Collection, our (Bowers and Merena) auction, November 1985, lot 1131; Jay Cline Collection, Superior, October 1990, lot 3561; sold privately since that time.