1808 Capped Draped Bust $2.50 Quarter Eagle

First, the bottom line…

The Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle was produced only in 1808, making it a one-year type design. Demand for this coin from type collectors and early United States gold specialists, in the face of very limited supplies, has launched the 1808 quarter eagle to legendary heights as one of the greatest classic rarities in American numismatics.(1)

And now, the historical backdrop…

John Reich came to Philadelphia from Bavaria (Germany) as an indentured servant in 1800. He was hired by the United States Mint as Assistant Engraver in 1807. Mint Director Robert M. Patterson immediately tasked him to oversee the sweeping redesign of U.S. coinage.(2)

Reich went to the drawing board first with the denominations needed most, the half dollar and $5.00 half eagle. In 1808 he turned his attention to the cent and $2.50 quarter eagle. The following year it was overhaul time for the half cent and dime.

Reich’s quarter eagle featured Miss Liberty facing left, wearing a mob cap -- a women’s fashion during the early 19th century (some say it should be viewed as a Phrygian cap). Her bust is stylishly draped. Thus, numismatists call this the Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle, although other descriptions are often used. For the reverse, Reich placed an eagle with outstretched wings in a natural pose, its breast defended by a shield.(3)(4)(5)

However, his work on the quarter eagle was almost a wasted effort. During the years of the early Mint, gold and silver were coined according to the wishes of private bullion depositors, and most of them ordering gold coins ignored the quarter eagle, because it was too large for everyday commerce but too small for bank-to-bank and international transactions.(6)

As a result, only 2,710 of the 1808 Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle were produced. Quarter Eagles were not coined again until 1821, and by then, a different quarter eagle style, the Capped Head, was in use.

As such, the Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle design is a one-year type, appearing only in 1808, never to be made again. In the entire spectrum of U.S. gold coins, there are just four one-year types. In addition to the 1808 quarter eagle, the others are: 1796 Capped Bust No Stars quarter eagle, 1907 Indian Head With Periods eagle, and the 1907 Saint-Gaudens High Relief double eagle.(7)

Most 1808 quarter eagles were destroyed by bullion profiteers in the 1820s and 1830s, when their gold content was worth more than their $2.50 face value.(8) Today, the number of survivors is estimated at 132. This is not incredibly rare for an early U.S. gold coin, but constant pressure from buyers needing the 1808 quarter eagle to complete their collections has sent prices zooming.(9)

Fascinating Fact: The last star on the bottom right of the 1808 quarter eagle contains a small notch on the outermost point. This is typical of silver and gold coin dies engraved by John Reich, serving as his “signature.” Reich left the Mint in 1817 because of a dispute over pay.(10)

The 1808 Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle is a rock star in world of numismatics. Expect this coin to remain a popular forever in the hearts of collectors.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 132
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 7.6
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
Click HERE to check for availability on eBay**

Preview of eBay selection (you might find one or two 1808 quarter eagles using the HERE link above):

1808 Capped Draped Bust $2.50 quarter eagle images 1808 Capped Draped Bust quarter eagle - classic gold rare coin
Trendline Avg = 12.41 CLASSIC RARITY
Last updated 9-6-23
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1. Garrett, Jeff and Guth, Ron.  100 Greatest U.S. Coins, 5th ed.  Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2019.

2. Taxay, Don.  The U.S. Mint and Coinage.  New York, NY: Sanford J. Durst Numismatic Publications, 1966.

3. NGC.  Early $2.50 (1796-1834).

4. Garrett, Jeff and Guth, Ron.  100 Greatest U.S. Coins, 5th ed.  Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2019.

5. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle.  Dec 2020 Auction.

6. NGC.  Early $2.50 (1796-1834).

7. Heritage Auctions.  1808 $2 1/2.  Jan 2023 Auction.

8. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle.  Dec 2020 Auction.

9. PCGS.  1808 $2.50 (Regular Strike).

10. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle.  Dec 2020 Auction.

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.