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Certain 1815 and 1825/3 Capped Bust quarters display E and L countermarks about the upper obverse rim. The meaning of these countermarks is not known for sure, but Karl Moulton, who has been studying these pieces for quite some time, asserts that the first example, an 1815, appeared in Captain John W. Haseltine's December 12, 1881 sale. Although these pieces were absent from earlier numismatic circles, they suddenly flooded auctions throughout 1882 and 1883. Moulton believes that the death of William DuBois in July 1881 may be connected to the sudden appearance of these pieces. DuBois had served as Assayer at the Philadelphia Mint and also as curator of the Mint Collection. It is possible that the countermarked 1815 and 1825/3 quarters were dispersed to prominent dealers following DuBois' death. The high grade of these pieces, coupled with the fact that other numismatic rarities such as the 1804 silver dollars surfaced at this time, seems to support Moulton's theory.
The circumstances surrounding the production of these pieces is still cause for debate. It is obvious that the E and L counterstamps were added to the coins sometime after striking. Whether or not the letters were impressed at the Mint is not known. All of the countermarked 1825 quarters are of the 1825/3 B-2 die variety. Some authors claim that these countermarked coins served as weight standards at the Philadelphia Mint. Breen, among others, asserts that the letters were added to denote English and Latin, respectively. He believes that the coins were then distributed to students at local schools as awards for contests. Mark Hotz claims that these letters were impressed to indicate adjustments to the screw presses. The countermarked coins were then released into circulation, thus enabling the Mint to trace wear patterns and see which press adjustment produced the best coins.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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