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Walter Breen and other researchers theorize that, despite a recorded original mintage of 4,000 pieces for this fabled rarity, most (or perhaps all) of those coins were actually dated 1825. Breen pegged the number of Originals coined at 12, although that number is uncertain. Apparently 10 or so Originals can be accounted for today, with perhaps 15 silver Restrikes and a few copper pieces.
As the rarity of this issue was recognized early on, the Mint produced Restrikes in at least two different striking periods ('Period One/Class II' and 'Period Two/Class III'), distinguishable by different die states. The so-called Period One Restrikes show little die rust and are struck over Bust quarters. The Eliasberg specimen, the example Bowers and Merena offered in their 1992 Somerset sale, and possibly one other piece belong to this category. Many numismatists believe that those coins were struck in the late 1850s, roughly the same time period as the 1804 silver dollar Restrikes. But that fails to explain how Bust quarters would have been apparently available at so late a date, nor why the advanced die rust on the so-called Class III or Period Two Restrikes seems to indicate a striking date that is much later yet.
A telling note exists in the Breen 1992 update to the Browning classic, The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States 1796-1838: 'Die states: I. Relatively unrusted dies, Uncirculated or dull Proof. Issue of 1858-early 1859. II. Heavily rusted dies. Proofs. Issues of 1859-1860, silver, copper.'
While Walter Breen occasionally indulged in flights of imaginative thinking, acceptance of his premise here requires the numismatist to believe that the original 1827/3 obverse die lay around for 32 years or so without rusting much, then acquired a great deal of rust in a period of one year between the two striking periods!
A more logical, but, admittedly, equally undocumented explanation might be that the first Class II/Period One Restrikes were made in the early 1830s, when Bust quarters were still common and little rust would have accumulated on the obverse die, and that the later Class III/Period Two restrikes were produced in the late 1850s or early 1860s--a period when many clandestine rarities emanated from the Mint--by which time extensive oxidation of the obverse die had taken place. (Of course, if one assumes that the Mint had Bust quarters available as late as the 1850s, it could equally be that the Period One Restrikes were produced then, and that the Period Two pieces could have been produced, say, in the early 1870s.)
In his 1992 revision of the Browning reference, Walter Breen identified 14 pieces, including four examples from Period One, and 10 examples from Period Two.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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