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SERIES: Liberty Head $2 1/2 1840-1907
LEVEL: Year, MintMark, & Major Variety

1851-C $2.50 (Regular Strike)

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18.00 millimeters
Christian Gobrecht
4.18 grams
Metal Content:
90% Gold, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$30,550 • PCGS MS63 • 8-2-2017 • Heritage
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Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 125 R-7.7 48 / 147 TIE 48 / 147 TIE
60 or Better 7 R-9.6 43 / 147 TIE 43 / 147 TIE
65 or Better 0 R-10.1 1 / 147 1 / 147
Condition Census (Explain) Show more rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS63 PCGS grade

Stack's/Bowers 11/2013:2172, $28,200

1 MS63 PCGS grade

Heritage 8/2017:4090, $30,550

3 MS62 PCGS grade  
3 MS62 PCGS grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS63 PCGS grade

Stack's/Bowers 11/2013:2172, $28,200

1 MS63 PCGS grade

Heritage 8/2017:4090, $30,550

3 MS62 PCGS grade  
3 MS62 PCGS grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  
7 MS60 PCGS grade  
8 AU58 PCGS grade  
8 AU58 estimated grade  

American Numismatic Rarities 8/2006:1209, not sold

8 AU58 estimated grade  
Doug Winter: The mintage for the 1851-C quarter eagle is considerably larger than for the 1850-C. Despite this, the 1851-C is a slightly scarcer coin, both overall and in higher grades.

The 1851-C quarter eagle is most often seen in VF and EF grade. It is very scarce in properly grade AU. As recently as two decades ago the 1851-C was believed to be unique in Uncirculated but a few previously unknown pieces have entered the market, and there are now four to six that qualify as Uncirculated by today’s more liberal standards.

STRIKE: The quality of the strike for this issue varies. There are some examples known with a good overall strike while others show below average to poor strikes. On even the sharpest examples, there is weakness on the hair below RTY in LIBERTY. Other examples show flatness on Liberty’s hair bun. A number of 1851-C quarter eagles are very weak at the top of the hair, due to either a clogged die or a piece of foreign material adhering to the die during the striking process. The reverse is better struck. Most of the details on the wings and the neck are sharp while there is often just minor weakness seen on the eagle’s right leg and on the claws.

SURFACES: This date is almost never seen with choice surfaces. Most examples are noticeably abraded in the fields and show evidence of having been roughly handled. The circulation marks are compounded by a number of production factors as well. Clashmarks, which range from light to heavy, are seen below the arrowheads, around the neck of the eagle and outside of the center of the wings. I have seen at least five or six examples that have deep mint-made parallel scratches on the face of Liberty. These resemble adjustment marks and their exact cause is not known. The grading services typically net grade 1851-C quarter eagles that show these scratches as they tend to detract from the appearance of the coin.

LUSTER: The luster is satiny with a somewhat grainy texture. It is very hard to locate an 1851-C with original mint luster since most survivors have been cleaned or processed. On the few that are original, the quality of the luster is below average.

COLORATION: The natural coloration of this date is light to medium green-gold. Most have an unnatural bright appearance due to having been cleaned or dipped. Original pieces are worth a substantial premium die to their scarcity.

EYE APPEAL: It is very hard to find an example with good eye appeal. This date is a bit more available in higher grades (AU55 and above) than previously believed but the typical coin is well worn and unappealing.

DIE CHARACTERISTICS: Raised die scratches can be seen on the reverse from the middle of the olive leaves up into the field.

DIE VARIETIES: There is a single variety.

Variety 1 (formerly Variety 13-G): The first 1 in the date touches both the bust and the denticles while the second 1 is much closer to the denticles than the bust. The reverse is the same as described above for the 1849 and for the first variety of 1850.
David Akers (1975/88): Very difficult to locate in high grade and, as the auction data clearly indicates, most of the available pieces grade VF or less. Most specimens of this date are fairly well struck on the reverse, but are typically weak in the hair over Liberty's ear.