Previously Unknown 1854-S $2.50 Certified at the ANA Show

Posted on 8/5/2005

A prized rarity was revealed to the numismatic community when NGC certified an 1854-S Quarter Eagle on July 27, during the ANA World’s Fair of Money.


NGC Director of Research, David Lange, stands with the recently certified 1854-S $2.50 at the NGC booth at the ANA World's Fair of Money.

A scant 246 of these $2.50 gold pieces were struck during the San Francisco Mint’s first year of operation in 1854. Today, approximately a dozen 1854-S Quarter Eagles are known, and most show heavy wear from circulation. Most intriguing about this particular example’s history, however, is the story of its discovery by the numismatic community.

Earlier in the year, on Saturday, April 2, at the Santa Clara Coin & Collectibles Expo, a woman and her family arrived at the show toting an heirloom gold coin. They believed that it had been in their family’s possession since 1858, being the first gold coin acquired by a long-ago ancestor who immigrated to California during the Gold Rush. They approached NGC Director of Research, David Lange, for his evaluation, recounting the coin’s story and explaining that they believed they had something valuable. “Though I hear such claims at every coin show, she seemed to speak with more confidence than most visitors,” recalls Lange. “I was shocked to see that the coin she took out of her bag was the extremely rare 1854-S Quarter Eagle.”

As she had arrived late in the show, on-site grading was no longer available. The coin would need to be sent to NGC’s office in Sarasota for certification. Having just been told that she did, in fact, have a very valuable coin, she was not ready to let it out of her sight for so long. Lange then mentioned that he would be returning to with NGC to the area in three months for the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money. “I didn’t expect I would ever see her or the coin again,” recounts Lange.

She did return, however, and this time on the opening day of the show. The coin was promptly submitted to NGC for certification, and was graded XF-45, making it the third finest known example. Once properly authenticated and graded by NGC, the family decided to release this coin to the collectors. It will be auctioned by American Numismatic Rarities (ANR) in Beverly Hills in their September auction, before the Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo.


The 1854-S $2.50 recently certified by NGC. Photo courtesy American Numismatic Rarities.

While at the ANA World’s Fair of Money, several experts had the chance to comment on the coin. Frank Van Valen, Senior Numismatist at ANR, commented that this coin’s unique history as a recent discovery makes it all the more desirable to the sophisticated collectors of dated gold coins. Doug Winter of Pinnacle Rarities, a noted expert on Nineteenth Century gold coinage, said that this piece is certainly among the most “technically pleasing examples extant,” and that the “only finer example to come to market recently is the Bass specimen.” In an article written about this issue, Winter claims that most numismatists are “guilty of overlooking its rarity and historical importance.” This coin’s reemergence is certainly among the noteworthy events of the 2005 ANA World’s Fair of Money.

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