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

1841 $2.50 (Proof)

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Gem Proof
Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

PCGS PR60
PCGS #:
7867
Diameter:
18.00 millimeters
Designer:
Christian Gobrecht
Weight:
4.18 grams
Edge:
Reeded
Mintage:
20
Metal Content:
90% Gold, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$178,250 • PCGS PR64 • 5-25-2000 • Bowers & Merena
 
Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Estimate 
Numismatic
Rarity 
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 4 R-9.8 6 / 60 TIE 6 / 60 TIE
60 or Better 4 R-9.8 6 / 60 TIE 6 / 60 TIE
65 or Better 1 R-10.0 1 / 60 TIE 1 / 60 TIE
Condition Census (Explain)
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 PR65 PCGS estimated grade

Mint Cabinet - National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

2 PR64 PCGS grade

A.H. Baldwin -
Burdette G. Johnson -
Wayte Raymond -
Waldo Newcomer -
Col. E.H.R. Green -
F.C.C. Boyd -
"World's Greatest Collection" 1946:108, $6,000
"J.F. Bell" (alias for Jake Shapiro)-
Numismatic Gallery "Memorable" 1948:101, $4,200 -
Louis Eliasberg, Sr. -
Bowers & Ruddy 1982:117, $82,500 -
Harry Bass -
Bowers & Merena 05/2000:105, $178,250. 

According to the cataloguer of the Bass sale, this coin was acquired by B.G. Johnson as part of a full gold 1841 Proof set (including a quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle). Illustrated on page 100 of the first edition of Garrett & Guth’s “100 Greatest U.S. Coins.”

3 PR60 PCGS grade

Samuel Wolfson -
Stack's 10/1962:114, $15,000 -
Alex Shuford -
Kosoff 05/1968:1731, $18,000 -
Jess Peters “ANA” 1973:821, $26,000 (95% certainty based on plate-matching by Guth)
AAA "Herstal" 02/1974:734A, $26,000 (identified by the lintmark)-
Worldwide Coins, 2/1974 -
Harry Bass -
Bowers & Merena 1999:335, $115,000

Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 PR65 PCGS estimated grade

Mint Cabinet - National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

2 PR64 PCGS grade

A.H. Baldwin -
Burdette G. Johnson -
Wayte Raymond -
Waldo Newcomer -
Col. E.H.R. Green -
F.C.C. Boyd -
"World's Greatest Collection" 1946:108, $6,000
"J.F. Bell" (alias for Jake Shapiro)-
Numismatic Gallery "Memorable" 1948:101, $4,200 -
Louis Eliasberg, Sr. -
Bowers & Ruddy 1982:117, $82,500 -
Harry Bass -
Bowers & Merena 05/2000:105, $178,250. 

According to the cataloguer of the Bass sale, this coin was acquired by B.G. Johnson as part of a full gold 1841 Proof set (including a quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle). Illustrated on page 100 of the first edition of Garrett & Guth’s “100 Greatest U.S. Coins.”

3 PR60 PCGS grade

Samuel Wolfson -
Stack's 10/1962:114, $15,000 -
Alex Shuford -
Kosoff 05/1968:1731, $18,000 -
Jess Peters “ANA” 1973:821, $26,000 (95% certainty based on plate-matching by Guth)
AAA "Herstal" 02/1974:734A, $26,000 (identified by the lintmark)-
Worldwide Coins, 2/1974 -
Harry Bass -
Bowers & Merena 1999:335, $115,000

David Akers (1975/88): The 1841 is generally considered to be the most desireable of all Liberty Head quarter eagles. There is no official record of this date having been struck, but obviously a small number were minted. Most numismatists and cataloguers feel that this is a proof-only date and that all known specimens were originally struck in proof for inclusion in presentation sets. This seems unlikely to me and I am not convinced that the 1841 is a proof-only date. First of all, there are far too many specimens known when compared to other proof quarter eagles (or proof gold of any other denomination) of the same period. Less than five proofs are known of every other quarter eagle from 1840 to 1848, and yet I would estimate that at least twelve and possibly as many as fifteen 1841's are known. Only a few of them are clearly and unequivocally proofs, such as the coin in the Smithsonian Institution, the piece in Louis Eliasberg's collection, the Davis/Graves coin, and perhaps one or two others. Most of the others are well circulated and, in fact, grade from VG to EF. More importantly, the supposedly "impaired proofs" just don't look like impaired proofs. Consider for example the Wolfson specimen, which was subsequently in the Shuford Sale and then in the 1974 NASC Sale conducted by the American Auction Association. Although barely circulated, it has almost no trace of a proof surface and few of the other characteristics of a genuine proof (such as a square edge), although it does appear to have been struck from the same dies as the proofs.

Note: All known specimens of the 1841 were apparently struck from the same dies. Since some pieces are obviously proofs, this would normally indicate that they were all struck as proofs since I know of no other non-proof gold coins of any denomination or date that were struck from the same dies as the proofs of the same year.

If indeed the 1841 is a proof-only date , it would be an interesting research project for someone to determine why such a large number (relatively speaking, of course) were struck. Certainly it was not for presentation sets since such sets would have included a half eagle and eagle as well. Or would they? Could there have been presentation sets that contained the minor coins and just the quarter eagle without the other two gold coins? Was there something special about the year 1841 that justified altering the normal pattern of making gold proofs? On the other hand, if the 1841 quarter eagle is not a proof-only date, as I believe, then why were so few struck and why was there no record of the mintage?

As you can see, this coin poses many interesting questions and for that reason, it is for me one of the most intriguing and enigmatic of all United States gold coins.