Rare Arrows No Motto Proof Quarter
Production levels for those coins minted specifically for collectors, whether ‘Proofs’ or ‘Master Coins’, generally stayed in the single digits through 1853, and rose slightly for 1854 and 1855 before ramping up significantly beginning in 1856. Mintage estimates for these early proofs often parrot Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia (1977). David Akers, noted expert on early proof coins, weighed in on the subject in his catalogues of the John Jay Pittman Collection, and more recently, John Dannreuther has begun releasing his monumental opus on United States Proof Coins, including rosters of the known examples where possible.
Comparing 1854 and 1855 Proof Quarters, Breen’s estimates were ’10 to 12′ and ’15 to 20?’ respectively, Akers followed Breen’s line with ’12-15′ and ‘no more than 15-20′, while PCGS notes ’10 to 15′ and ’15 to 20 known’. Finally, PCGS reports total populations of 15 for 1854, including what appears to be a group of resubmissions at the PR64 level, and 10 for 1855. Reviewing the auction records, including a few NGC certified coins that are not included in the PCGS data, and the Smithsonian proof reported by Breen, the likely total population for 1855 Proof Quarters is more likely in the range of 12 to 15 coins, roughly in line with the total surviving population for 1854.
All of the design elements show even, medium frost, with a strong contrast against deep, watery fields. The toning is exceptional, with faint amber at the centers blending toward violet and blue at the rims. Scattered light hairlines set the grade, but are easily overlooked. A small lintmark in the shape of a backwards 5 shows in the left obverse field near Liberty’s wrist, and there is a small rough patch in the die that shows inside of stars 9 to 10.
This is likely the finest surviving 1855 Proof Quarter, the only one certified as PR65+CAM by PCGS. Eliasberg 4/1997:1459 is likely next, speckled medium blue and violet NGC PR66, followed by the Norweb – Kaufman NGC PR65CAM, Pittman 5/1998:1330 now NGC PR65, and Floyd Starr 10/1992:410 graded PR65 by PCGS but very dark blue and violet.
Heritage Auctions, February 2009, lot 1104 @ $34,500 as PCGS PR65CAM #13727626. Joe O’Connor (OCNUMIS), privately, September 2018 to Oliver Jung, ‘The Type Set’ by Oliver and Lish Jung. Joe O’Connor (OCNUMIS), privately, October 2019 to ‘The Tyrant Collection’ by Dan O’Dowd.