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Majestic 1834 Classic Head Quarter Eagle to be offered as part of The Griggs Collection in our October 2015 Rarities Auction.

The U.S. quarter eagle denomination was authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, but was not put into production until 1796 due to a substantial surety bond required of Mint employees that was intended to discourage pilfering. Once the bond had been reduced and secured, half eagles and eagles were struck in 1795, with the $2.50 denomination making its debut the following year.

Like many early U.S. Mint issues, gold coinage was hobbled by the 15:1 gold to silver ratio that dictated precious metal content for the first four decades of production. The favorable European gold to silver ratio of 15.75:1 encouraged heavy expatriation and melting of virtually all gold denominations. By the beginning of the 19th century, gold coins were scarcely encountered in domestic circulation.

The Coinage Act of 1834, passed by Congress on June 27th and signed by President Andrew Jackson on the following day, raised coinage ratios to a more relevant 16:1 silver-to-gold composition. This effectively eliminated the advantages of exportation and placed our currency on a gold standard.

Previous to this coinage act, production figures for quarter eagles were understandably dismal. In the 20 years leading up to this revision, the mintage of quarter eagles amounted to less than 70,000 coins combined. 4,000 of these coins were minted in the first half of 1834, depicting John Reich’s Capped Head Left portrait of Liberty and the motto E. PLURIBUS UNUM scrolled just above the eagle on the reverse. In order to distinguish this earlier issue from the newly revised pieces, U.S. Mint Director Samuel Moore decided to use a different portrait style and omit the motto from the reverse.  

Engraver William Kneass conceived a slightly slimmer Liberty, with pronounced curls atop her uncapped head and distinct ribbon ends to the right. The motto was absent on the reverse design, as requested by Moore. With a revised gold content and a revamped Liberty, this new issue, now known as the Classic Head type, would finish out the remainder of the 1834 production run with a quantity of 112,234 coins, nearly doubling the total of all quarter eagles produced by the U.S. Mint until that point. The lovely quarter eagle we feature here from our October 1 Rarities Auction is from this transitional mintage.

This attractive Mint State example offers rich, warm honey gold patination across both sides. The fields are remarkably reflective, starkly contrasting with the satiny frost on the devices throughout. The surfaces are serene, delivering a superlative level of preservation for the assigned grade. This is a thoroughly delightful representative of this important and desirable first-year issue.    

This beautiful jewel is just one of the many important coins to be offered as part of our sale of The Griggs Collection in our October 2015 Rarities Auction. Consisting of significant U.S. gold rarities represented by virtually every type, this offering will be a significant opportunity for all enthusiasts of our nation’s gilded coinage. For more information about The Griggs Collection and the other world-class treasures included in our October 2015 Rarities Auction, please visit StacksBowers.com or contact your regional office.    

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