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Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ August 2021 Auction to Feature Landmark 1827/3/2 Quarter Dollar Rarity

Stack’s Bowers Galleries is pleased to present the Mickley/Norweb
specimen of the 1827/3/2 Original quarter. This example, one of many exciting
highlights of our Official Auction for the ANA World’s Fair of Money, is graded
Proof-65 Cameo by PCGS, and has been approved by CAC. Our catalog and website,
StacksBowers.com, will feature an extensive history and description of this
fabulous coin, but we present here a condensed history of this legendary
rarity.​

Ironically, the story of
this now-famous issue begins with a fact: per the Mint Director’s report, 4,000
quarters were delivered to the Mint Treasurer on December 29, 1827,
representing the Mint’s entire mintage of quarters for calendar year 1827 and,
indeed, its first production for this denomination since 1825. It is the
mintage figure reported for the 1827-dated Capped Bust quarter in most of today’s
standard numismatic references, including A Guide Book of United States
Coins (the popular “Red Book”) originally authored by R.S.
Yeoman. The existence of so few examples, however, has cast a long shadow of
doubt about the relevance of this mintage figure to the 1827-dated Capped Bust
quarter issue.

Indeed, numismatic scholars
of the 20th and early 21st centuries are nearly unanimous in their conclusion
that this 4,000-piece mintage figure has nothing to do with the 1827-dated
quarter. Others believe that it is a genuine mintage figure, as reported by the
Mint Director, but assert that it represents quarters bearing a date other than
1827, including 1825 (Walter Breen) and 1828 (Karl Moulton).

If no 1827-dated quarters
were included in the Mint’s 4,000-piece delivery of December 29, 1827, how is
it that coins bearing this date, albeit few in number, are known today? After
all, and as previously stated, there is no documentary evidence for the Mint’s
striking of 1827 quarters, either during that or any other year. This omission
is strongly suggestive of the special nature of these coins. Whereas yearly
mintages for regular issue circulation strike coinage were typically reported
by the Mint Director, the same did not happen for Proof gold and silver coinage
until 1859, with Proof minor coinage not reported until 1878. In all cases such
coins were produced in very limited numbers, and in a few special cases for
presentation or other official purposes. While the 1827 quarters that were
actually struck that year were almost certainly not intended for presentation
purposes, they were still produced in small numbers, are of superior
workmanship to circulation strikes of the era, and with only a single exception
are expertly preserved to suggest special distribution.

Karl Moulton has
established that the only known obverse die of the 1827-dated quarter is the
same that the Mint previously used to strike the nearly as rare and perhaps
equally famous 1823/2 quarter. Although opinions differ as to why, in 1827 Mint
employees retrieved the 1823/2 obverse die, which theoretically would have been
in excellent condition given the small mintage of that issue and prepared it
for 1827-dated coinage. This process included a curious feature: in contrast to
other overdates, produced by punching over only the final digit, all four
digits have been re-punched with current punches, the 1, 8, and 2 being
identical to those used on the quarters of 1828. All genuine 1827 quarters,
regardless of striking period, exhibit an unusual and corroded texture on the
bust of Liberty. This is consistent with an overuse of acid on the face of the
die, perhaps to clean this obverse after four years spent in storage and in
preparation for its use in 1827-dated coinage.

This obverse die, now
overdated a second time as 1827/3/2, was paired with a fresh reverse die to
strike quarters toward the end of 1827. This is the variety now known as
Browning-1, the Original 1827 quarter. Only nine examples are known and, in
fact, this figure probably represents the entire mintage from the B-1 die
pairing. Karl Moulton uses this number as the foundation of an interesting
theory:

“I believe that late
on the afternoon of Christmas eve [1827] Director [Samuel] Moore ‘authorized’ a
few special 1827 open collar ‘Christmas presents’ to be clandestinely made in
honor of the Officers of the Mint; including one for Mr. [Christian Gobrecht]
and the Secretary of the Treasury in Washington D.C.

“This list numbers
eight people, which just happens to be the correct number of these…Original
pieces traced by the author, excluding the example placed in the Mint
Collection, where it remains today.

“1. Samuel Moore –
Director

“2. James Rush –
Treasurer

“3. Joseph Richardson
– Assayer

“4. Adam Eckfeldt –
Coiner

“5. Joseph Cloud –
Melter & Refiner

“6. William Kneass –
Engraver

“7. Christian Gobrecht
– Creator of the 1827/3/2 die

“8. Richard Rush –
Secretary of the Treasury”

Again, this is just a
theory and lacks documentary evidence. That these B-1 coins were struck in 1827
and deserve the title of Originals is beyond doubt, however, and for two
reasons. First, they were obviously struck prior to the 1828 B-1 circulation
strikes, which were coined from the same reverse die. Second, all genuine 1827
B-1 quarters have 108 edge reeds, which matches the count seen on the other
quarters of this era. Clearly, the 1827 B-1 Original quarters were struck
first, followed by the first of the 1828 B-1 circulation strikes, the latter
probably representing the aforementioned 4,000-piece mintage reported for
calendar year 1827.

The status of the 1827 B-1
coins as Proofs is problematic, insofar as they do not meet the requirements
for Proof coins as defined by modern numismatics. For one thing, these coins
are not fully struck, as each example displays isolated softness to the design
elements. They are probably more accurately described as “Master”
coins, a term not widely used today, and which in the case of the Original 1827
quarters is most conveniently defined as coins struck from newly (re-)polished
dies.

Regardless of the intent
behind their production, it seems that the Original 1827 quarters did not see
immediate distribution. This is contrary to one of the most widely known and
often repeated stories relating to this famous issue, a tale that has a particularly
strong link to the specimen offered here. As told by Walter Breen (Encyclopedia,
1988), who more than any other numismatic writer is responsible for giving this
story currency in the modern market:

“Joseph J. Mickley
(1799-1878), ‘Father of American Coin Collecting,’ obtained four proofs from
the Philadelphia Mint in late 1827 as change for a dollar (presumably Spanish
or Mexican); for decades these were the only ones known.”

As Karl Moulton points out,
this story originated with A.M. Smith and was first printed shortly after
Mickley’s death in 1878. It was expanded upon by W. Elliot Woodward in the
January 1884 Heman Ely sale catalog and, later, further embellished by Breen
through his cataloging for New Netherlands. Unfortunately, there is no evidence
that Mickley ever owned more than one 1827 quarter and, more significantly, the
numismatic market was not aware of these coins’ existence until the late 1850s.
Moulton identifies their first mention in literature as the September 13, 1857,
issue of the New York Dispatch; by 1867 all nine specimens were
known to the numismatic community. It seems likely that the Original 1827
quarters remained in the Mint’s possession until the 1850s. With the
appointment of James Ross Snowden as Mint Director in June 1853, interest in
growing the Mint Cabinet Collection reached new levels, and duplicates of a
rare and previously unknown coin such as the 1827 quarter would have been prime
candidates for trading with collectors for other items desired for the Mint’s holdings.

For more information on this
and the many other incredible rarities offered in our August 2021 Official ANA
Auction, visit StacksBowers.com or contact us at 800-458-4646 to order a copy
of the printed catalog.​

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