1849 Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar - Obverse Dies

by Greg Johnson


A little over one year ago (May 2009) I wrote a short note for the e-Gobrecht regarding die pairings of the 1849 seated quarter. The purpose of the note was to ask for help from collectors in my efforts to solve a puzzle. The puzzle was a die pairing that had been reported in the Gobrecht Journal (Issue 98 Pages 35-36) as a new die pairing unreported in Briggs’ “Comprehensive Encyclopedia of United States Seated Quarters” (Lima, OH 1991 ISBN 1-880731-05-3). My suspicion was that the “new” die paring wasn’t new, but was a Briggs’ 3-B that had been misattributed due to typographical errors in the book.

If the “unlisted” obverse is, in fact, Briggs’ obverse 3 then there are two key typos that led to the missed attribution. First, the date location of “just right of 5” is in error and should read “6/7”. Note that date position is determined based on an imaginary line drawn along the right side of the upright portion of the “1” in the date. The date position number then references where this line intersects the shield above with respect to the shield lines numbered from left to right. Second, instead of “slopes up left to right” it should read “slopes down left to right.” I’ve noted that the distance measurements from digit to rock provided in the book read 0.5 – 0.5 – 0.5 – 0.6 indicating a downward slope from left to right, though the text says “up”. Figure 1 shows three dates of 1849 seated quarters, the top is obverse 2, the middle is obverse 3 (the “unlisted obverse”), and the bottom is the proof obverse (obverse 4, from the Heritage online archive, Lot 2390, Auction 1104, April 16, 2008). It should be mentioned here for completeness that obverse 1 has a date that is much further to the left than any of those shown.

The question that I asked was “does anyone have a coin with an obverse that matches the description of obverse 3 in Briggs’? One can suspect that the die doesn’t exist based on several years of not finding any obverse dies matching the description, but another possibility is that it does exist and is a rare coin. At a recent Baltimore show I found a coin that I think confirms my suspicion that there aren’t currently any known 1849 dies unlisted in Briggs’. The coin, shown in Figures 2 and 3, exhibits the date position shown in the middle of Figure 1, but also the die cracks described in Briggs’ as associated with obverse 3. Specifically, “…another crack starts in dentil below star #1 and connects bases of date, ending at dentil just right of the “9”.”

So, in conclusion, all of the currently known dies of the 1849 quarter correspond to those described in Briggs’. However, the description of obverse 3 should be amended to read “date slopes down left to right” and the date position should read “6/7”.


The coin pictured in Figures 2 and 3 was provided by Dick Osburn and the photographs were taken at the Baltimore show using a Dino-Lite microscope provided by Joe Kane of Kane Resources.

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