A Brief Pre-1933 Gold Coin History: $2.50 Gold Quarter Eagles
Authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, the $2.50 Gold Quarter Eagle, minted from 1796-1929, enjoyed its status as the smallest circulating Gold coin until 1849 when the $1 denomination was issued. The Eagle had a value of $10, thus the $2.50 coin is known as a Quarter Eagle (1/4 of 10 = 2.5).
With their low face value, these coins circulated mainly in the west and many of them will show heavy wear. However, some were given as gifts and many dates are still available in choice condition. Another factor adding to the popularity of this issue is the fact that most of the coins issued before 1834 may have been melted as the value of the metal was often worth more than the $2.50 face value.
The largest numbers of Gold Quarter Eagles were produced at the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Mint. Many of the branch mint coins of the 1840s and 1850s have much lower mintages, adding to their value. Gold mined from the areas of Charlotte, NC, Dahlonega, GA, New Orleans, LA, and San Francisco, CA was available in lower quantity, therefore fewer coins tended to be struck from those mints.
Throughout its 133-year minting, Gold Quarter Eagle was produced in four unique designs: Capped Bust (1796-1834), Classic Head (1834-1839), Liberty Head (1840-1907) and Indian Head (1908-1929).
The last design of the $2.50 Quarter Eagle is unique in the fact that it is one of only two denominations to feature an incuse, or sunken, relief and an edge that was not raised like all other U.S. coins. These coins were struck sporadically from 1908-1929 with higher mintages than previous issues and were not collected by numismatists of the day.
The Gold Act of 1934 prohibited most ownership of Gold and required Americans to turn in any Gold to the government. This resulted in many coins to be melted, further adding to the scarcity of many dates in the series. Rising Precious Metals prices have also increased the value of the Quarter Eagle, making them highly sought after today.