Series notes: $2.50 Early Gold (1796-1839)

Early $2.50 gold coins, which include quarter eagles struck between 1796 and 1839, are numismatic rarities that have been popular collectibles since at least the mid 19th century. Among early quarter eagles, there are counted at least three major types, including Capped Bust to Right (1796-1807), Draped Bust to Left, Large Size (1808), Capped Head to Left (1821-1834), and Classic Head, No Motto on Reverse (1834-1839). There are also two subtypes among the Capped Head to Left type and several recognized varieties within all of these series.

The Capped Bust to Right (also called the ?Turban Head?) type represents the first series for the quarter eagle, which was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. Robert Scot designed the Capped Bust to Right $2.50 coins, which are rare on the whole, especially the earliest issues. Two varieties are found among the first-year issues, and these include the 1796 No Stars on Obverse and 1796 Stars on Obverse; combined, fewer than 1,400 were struck and according to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) there are perhaps just 130 survivors total, with the 1796 No Stars Obverse issue serving as the more common example. Both 1796 issues, along with the 1797 and 1804 13-Star Reverse quarter eagles are five-figure coins or more in any grade.

The Draped Bust to Left, Large Size $2.50 quarter eagle is a one-year-only type from 1808 designed by John Reich that today is an extremely rare piece that is in consistent demand due to its being the only issue for the type. Records suggest just 2,710 examples were made, and it?s estimated that less than 140 survive. No more quarter eagles were made until 1821, when the Capped Head to Left type ? also designed by Reich ? was first struck. Mintages range from as few as 760 pieces in 1826 to as many as 6,448 in 1821, though all issues are today of about equal rarity, with the 1826 and 1834 With Motto proving the most difficult across the board.

The Classic Head, No Motto on Reverse type was struck from 1834 through 1839 and is the most common type of the early quarter eagles. Specimens from 1834 and 1835 saw mintages of 112,234 and 131,402, respectively, and in 1836 production approached 550,000 pieces. The remainder of this series saw mintages drop off steeply, and a few issues are considerably rare, including the 1838-C and 1839-C Charlotte strikings and the sole Dahlonega entry ? the 1839-D quarter eagle. William Kneass designed the Classic Head quarter eagle, which remains a relatively affordable option for those who wish to own early gold coins.

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