Liberty Head $2.50 Gold Quarter Eagle (1840-1907)
Starting in 1934, the US government tried to find a suitable design for their gold coins. Then, in 1838, Christian Gobrecht’s Coronet created a design for the Gold Quarter Eagle which was to remain and be used starting in 1840 all the way to 1907.
The coin features a figure of Liberty on the front and wearing a coronet on which the word ‘LIBERTY’ is inscribed. Around Liberty’s face are 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies, and below Liberty is the date. On the reverse side of the coin was the same eagle that had been used in coin designs since 1808. Surrounding the eagles is the phrase ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’ and below it is the denomination for the coin.
Throughout the series there are several rarities, some of which are rather extraordinary. The series lasted for an exceptional period of time and thus it’s quite difficult for a collector to hope to complete the entire set. As a result, some collectors have tried to construct alternate collections involving one coin from each mint, but even these can be particularly difficult to complete. New Orleans and San Francisco both feature extremely rare mint editions, but these are actually undervalued to a large degree when compared to coins of a similar rarity. On the other hand, Philadelphia tends to have the more common variations of the coin, though it does have its own rare versions such as Civil War issues. Additionally, low mintage dates aren’t necessarily rare, with some editions from the first half of the 1880’s existing in relatively large quantities.
Grading these coins can be something of a challenge, though some have managed to find some key indicators of friction and wear. The quality of these coins is usually not particularly low, especially for those minted after 1878. There are not very frequent counterfeits, but those that do exist tend to be found in the 1901-1907 period. Authentication techniques of the Liberty Head are very well known and it’s usually highly recommended to get a Liberty Head coin authenticated.
Overall, the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle is renowned if only for the sheer longevity of its design. It is, in fact, the longest-running uninterrupted coin design in American history. The amount of change that the country experienced from the 1840’s all the way to the election of Theodore Roosevelt is astonishing and this coin was there for it all. In this sense, you can actually see a major transformation of America from the coin’s start date to its discontinuation. It went from being a developing frontier nation to an advanced, economically prosperous, and politically contentious democracy. This democracy became a major player on the world stage by the time of the discontinuation of the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle and was a mighty military power and globally respected for its trading capabilities. From this perspective, the Liberty Head can also be admired as a symbol of the changing landscape of American history over the decades that it was in wide circulation.