Key Early Quarter Dollar
Browning 1 : Obverse with 04 close and 4 away from drapery, die defect showing as a raised segment left of star nine. Both known die marriages for 1804 share the same reverse, which was then used to strike 1805 Browning 1.
1804 is the first year of the Heraldic eagle reverse, with the denomination ’25 C.’ now added to either side of the eagle’s tail. Warrant #307 dated June 12, 1804 reported a delivery of 6,738 quarter dollars, which stands as the reported mintage for this date, and the lowest of this short four-year series by a wide margin. Additionally, while fewer quarters were reported as delivered for 1796, the quarters of 1804 are notably scarcer in upper grades, contributing to the constant demand for this date in any grade available.
As Carl W.A. Carlson writes in “Newlin and Garrett: An Historical Study of the Relations of Two Major Numismatists of the 1880’s” (The Numismatist, February 1976, pp. 263-284)
“One of the two most important chapters in the Newlin/Garrett relationship opens on March 16, 1885. “I have an opportunity of purchasing probably the finest & most complete (in regard to varieties) line of Dollars, Halves & Quarters. … When I tell you that there are nearly 800 pieces in the collection you can appreciate its magnitude” “
“This letter certainly requires some comment. It represents the first notice of the breaking of one of the most important collections in the 1880’s, one of the greatest offers ever made for private sale, and, in the end, one of the greatest missed opportunities in the view of many who read this.”
Of course, we are speaking of the monumental collection of Joseph Colvin Randall. T. Harrison Garrett did not buy Randall’s collection intact as Newlin suggested, yet he did use Newlin as an agent to purchase many exceptional coins from Woodward’s July 1885 sale of Randall’s collection. Carlson notes that Garrett purchased ‘only’ 67 lots in the Randall sale, but those 67 lots included the Prooflike 1795 Draped Bust $1 certified by PCGS as SP66 #11777143 and now in the ‘Tyrant’ Collection, the Gem 1795 Draped Bust $5 certified by PCGS as MS65 #31529816, my candidate for finest known of the issue, and this 1804 Draped Bust 25c.
Struck from a freshly lapped state of the dies, this 1804 Quarter exhibits strong polishing lines, especially on the reverse, and none of the die cracks or die clashing noted by Tompkins and Rea. Tompkins notes a probable die emission of Browning 2, then Browning 1. If this is the case, it is likely that the reverse die was clashed as noted by Tompkins in its use in the B.2 die pair, lapped, then married with the B.1 obverse, with this coin struck early in the life of the B.1 die pair. Fine hairlines are visible under a glass from a likely very old cleaning, as the surfaces have remained unchanged since before 1980, and likely since before 1885.
PCGS reports three 1804 Quarters certified as MS64, and one each as MS63+, MS63, and MS62. CAC includes the Bareford-Pogue-Hansen PCGS MS64 in its census, followed by three at the MS63 level, then the Pittman coin now graded PCGS MS62. The Speir example (Stack’s 3/1974:2) is now certified as NGC MS65, and is certainly PCGS and CAC worthy as MS64, although the ex Jimmy Hayes coin may eventually top them all.
Stentz Collection at $135 (per letter of 30 June 1885 from Harold P. Newlin to T. Harrison Garrett); J. Colvin Randall Collection; W. Elliott Woodward, July 1885, lot 547 at $100 as “brilliant; uncirculated” to Harold P. Newlin as agent for T. Harrison Garrett; T. Harrison Garrett – Robert Garrett – John Work Garrett – John Hopkins University; Bowers & Ruddy ‘Garrett II’, March 1980, lot 623 at $80,000 as “Choice AU-55″; ‘Stellar’ Collection by Ed Zimmerman; Dr. Charles Link.