1856 Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar - Flag 1 in Skirt Variety
by Greg Johnson
It sometimes seems surprising, given the time and
energy that has been spent on numismatic research, that new discoveries continue
at the pace that they do. Recent work on the Top 25 Liberty Seated Quarter Survey
has served as a reminder of those discoveries; in a series that ended over 120
years ago, 4 of the top 25 varieties were completely unknown to collectors even
20 years ago. It is particularly difficult to propose a plausible rarity estimate
of such recent discoveries. The 1856 Flag 1 in skirt, for example, having not
generated widespread notice by collectors for over 150 years, suddenly seemed
to be everywhere and now seems to be almost nowhere.
So how rare is it, really? The recent survey does not really answer that question because the variety is such a recent discovery, and clearly quite underreported compared to its apparent availability. Personally, the first example I found, and purchased, was in Dick Osburn’s case at the 2007 Summer ANA Convention in Milwaukee. Once I then started looking for them, they appeared to be everywhere. The next year, at the 2008 Summer ANA Convention in Baltimore, I found and purchased three unattributed examples of the variety. Rather than continue on the questionable path leading to a bushel basket full of 1856 quarters, I quit buying them at that point.
Over the past five years, examples have become increasingly more difficult to locate. It might even be possible at this summer’s ANA convention to search the floor without finding a single unattributed example. There are, however, attributed examples offered fairly regularly, usually at a significant premium. The highest such graded are two slabbed MS64 coins (one attributed and one not). PCGS has been quick to recognize the new variety, assigning it coin #395934 and thus far certifying three attributed examples in VF35, XF40 and MS64.
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