Near-Gem 1838 Liberty Seated Quarter from the Monument Hill Collection to be featured in Rarities Night of our March 2016 Baltimore Auction

As a first year, transitional issue, the 1838 Liberty Seated quarter is eagerly sought by type collectors and quarter specialists alike. The redesigned quarters continued the new composition of .900 fine silver that had been instituted in 1837, but replaced John Reich’s Capped Bust design that had been used since 1815.

At the request of Mint Director Robert M. Patterson, Chief Engraver William Kneass conceived a rudimentary sketch for a proposed design depicting Liberty seated upon a emblemized shield facing left, holding a pole topped with a pileus (the hat given by the Romans to slaves upon their liberation). Famed portrait painter Thomas Sully refined this concept, and it is from this proposal that Christian Gobrecht made a copperplate engraving to submit to Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury for approval. It is from this design that the Gobrecht dollars were crafted, along with several pattern pieces for Liberty Seated half dollars but, curiously, no patterns for Liberty Seated quarters.

Struck on the cusp of autumn in 1838, the 466,000-coin mintage for the 1838 Liberty Seated quarter trumps the 366,000-coin figure for the Capped Bust quarters minted in the first nine months of the year. The Liberty Seated design had been in a state of perpetual revision, and even within the few months of mintage in 1838, the reverse design had been modified, extending the claws on the eagle. Though researcher Larry Briggs noted in The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of United States Liberty Seated Quarters (1991) that this Closed Claws reverse was an alteration to the initial Open Claws design, continued research questions this direct progression and even introduces the possibility of a third, intermediate design that closely resembles another Closed Claws reverse.

Once again, in 1840, the dies were reworked. Sculptor Robert Ball Hughes subtly reimagined Liberty on the obverse to appear more organic, most notably adding drapery folds beneath her left elbow, creating the Drapery design type that would be used until the conclusion of the series in 1891.  The initial design without the folds is known as the No Drapery design, and it remains a popular two year subtype of the series.

In our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo this March, we are pleased to present a MS-64 (PCGS) example pairing the No Drapery, Open Claws reverse design types. While 1838 No Drapery Liberty Seated quarters are relatively common in lower circulated grades, availability becomes limited approaching Mint State. Just nine coins have been graded finer than this offering by PCGS.  

Delicate apricot hues at the central regions diffuse into teal and violet iridescence at the borders. Unbroken luster balances silken and satiny textures between the fields and the devices. The definition on Liberty’s head is stronger than usually encountered on even the best preserved of its peers, despite evidence of a later die-state most visible in the dentilation. The reverse motifs are similarly sharp and well defined.  This No Drapery example is a truly significant offering worthy of close inspection!

This wonderful piece is just one example from our upcoming March offering of the Monument Hill Collection, an expansive assemblage of exquisite type coins. To consign to our March 2016 Baltimore Auction or any of our upcoming sales, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers can do for you.

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