The obverse of this coin, one of our nation’s premier rarities, has engraver John Reich’s very European-looking version of Miss Liberty facing left. Her cap has LIBERTY incused, the date is centered at the bottom, seven stars are to the left, and six stars are to the right. The reverse features a more natural-looking eagle with the Union shield on its chest. For the first time in the quarter eagle series, the denomination is displayed. The motto is incused on a ribbon that arcs from wing tip to wing tip, and the Legend surrounds the central devices. In its claws the eagle holds on olive branch and three arrows.
The coin was designed with denticles forming the obverse and reverse rims. Virtually every 1808 quarter eagle has these devices extremely weakly struck to the point where they are totally indistinguishable, as seen above. This is believed to have been the result of a design flaw as opposed to a minting problem. This was never corrected as there was so little demand for the denomination, the Mint did not bother to make more than one die pair.
The one obverse die probably broke before many coins had been minted. The evidence for this is a die crack that runs from the cap through all the stars on the right. According to Breen, this die crack exists on every 1808 quarter eagle ever seen. It is thought the die eventually broke along this crack and was never replaced. This, combined with a lack of demand, resulted in the minting of just 2,710 coins. This created an instant, important rarity. Every Type collector wants to own one of these coins. With perhaps 50 coins still existing, these coins always attract great attention whenever they appear.
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