1911-D $2 1/2 MS66 PCGS Secure.Ex: Norweb/Bass. Both its initial low mintage and its subsequent small preservation made the 1911-D quarter eagle the series-key rarity that it is today.
The Denver Mint had been opened five years before it finally got around to striking its first examples of the quarter eagle denomination.
But it was apparently the denomination rather than the mint that was to blame; quarter eagles were in general minted in small numbers through much of American numismatic history.
The Denver Mint in 1911 certainly had the capacity to strike more:
Its production for the year also included 12.7 million Lincoln cents (also the first time for that denomination);
11.2 million Barber dimes;
Indian Head $2.50 Quarter Eagle
Indian Head quarter eagle never a health hazard By Michele Orzano
COIN WORLD Staff Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by President Roosevelt in 1905 to redesign the nation’s gold coinage.
The famed sculptor began in earnest, preparing designs for the Indian Head $10 gold eagle and the $20 double eagle – but was not able to offer new designs for other gold coins before he died in 1907.
That's when a young Boston sculptor and artist – Bela Lyon Pratt – entered the picture and the numismatic history books. A student of Saint-Gaudens at the Art Students League, Pratt also served as one of his assistants for a time. When Saint-Gaudens died, Pratt was given the assignment to complete the redesign efforts his mentor had started.
Pratt's work can be seen in his Indian Head designs for the gold $2.50 quarter eagle coin and the gold $5 half eagle coin.
The Indian Head design for both coins was introduced in 1908 and received mixed reviews.
Some praised his boldness in stepping away from the allegorical Liberty concept and replacing it with an intense-looking Indian wearing a feathered headdress and facing left. The obverse design was the first actual Indian to appear on U.S. coins.
Pratt's reverse design shows a majestic, standing eagle with denomination below the eagle.
The designs are the same for both denominations.
Pratt's new designs replaced Christian Gobrecht's Coronet-crowned Liberty design used on the obverse of the quarter eagle from 1840 to 1907.
What earned Pratt some unpleasant remarks was the way the designs were struck on the coins.
Pratt's design features devices in normal relief but recessed below the level of the fields. "This return to an ancient Egyptian concept called incuse-relief was advanced by Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, a close friend of President Roosevelt. A knowledgeable collector, Bigelow was influenced by the 1837 Bonomi pattern crown of Queen Victoria, actually struck in similar incuse-relief style for her 1887 Golden Jubilee for antiquarian J. Rochelle Thomas," according to the Comprehensive Catalog & Encyclopedia of United States Coins , from the publishers of Coin World .
The $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle designs were strongly criticized, with some suggesting that the "incused" portions would "permit enough germs to accumulate to prove a health hazard." The reference to the health concern came from Samuel H. Chapman, a Philadelphia coin dealer, whose allegations included the charge that the incuse areas would be "a great receptacle for dirt and conveyor of disease, and the coin will be the most unhygienic ever issued." In fact, the new coins were a success and were issued until 1929 without causing any health problems.
Despite the complaints, Pratt's designs for the quarter eagle and half eagle remain popular in the 21st century.
Date of authorization: Jan. 18, 1837
Dates of issue: 1908-1929
Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Diameter: 17.78 mm/0.70 inch
Weight: 4.18 grams/0.13 ounce
Metallic content:9 0% gold, 10% copper
Weight of pure silver: 3.76 grams/0.12 ounce
Mint mark: Reverse lower left
933,600 Barber quarters and 695,000 Barber halves;
72,500 Indian half eagles and 30,100 eagles; and 846,500 Saint-Gaudens twenties.
In point of fact, the Liberty nickel was the only circulating denomination of the year that the Denver Mint did not strike.
But while the gold half eagle and eagle dated 1911-D are also low-mintage productions, they are among several keys within their respective series.
The 1911-D quarter eagle, on the other hand, stands alone among the Indian Head quarter eagles as the acknowledged key in every grade, save for the very highest Mint State levels where the 1914-D and 1914 come into play as conditional rarities.
*The fact that both the Norwebs and Harry Bass chose this 1911-D quarter eagle for their collections speaks volumes about the quality of this piece. In both cases, those collectors could afford to buy any example they chose to represent this key. And in both cases, this was the coin. Close examination with a loupe quickly demonstrates why.
It would be interesting to know the pedigree of this coin prior to the Norwebs purchase; it looks like someone plucked it from the dies immediately after striking. The surfaces exude originality. Both sides show a significant presence of lilac that is interspersed with light reddish-gold. The satiny luster is bright and almost unaffected by the abrasions that usually afflict all issues in the Indian quarter eagle series.
Also of note is the remarkably strong strike, with almost complete definition on the lowest feather of the headdress as well as the boldly defined mintmark.
But don't take our word for it, let two of the most notable collectors of the 20th century be your guide to the quality of this coin.
*Population: 3 in 66 (1 in 66+), 0 finer (2/13).
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