Guide to U.S. Draped Bust Quarter Eagles
The Draped Bust Quarter Eagle, also referred to as the Turban Head Quarter Eagle, represented the first type for the smallest gold denomination established under the Coinage Act of 1792. The two higher gold denominations known as the eagle and half eagle had been introduced in 1795. The quarter eagle with a value of two dollars and fifty cents would be introduced in 1796 and struck in extremely limited numbers until the conclusion of the series in 1807. Because of the small mintages, all coins of the series are extremely rare and often among the most difficult pieces to acquire for a complete type set of United States coinage.
The Draped Bust Quarter Eagle was designed by Robert Scot, who had created similar designs for the two larger gold denominations. The obverse features the head of Liberty facing to the right and wearing a turban-like cap. The word LIBERTY appears above, and the date appears below. No additional ornamentation was included within the original design, and the image of Liberty stands out remarkably.
The reverse design was based on the Great Seal of the United States. An eagle appears at center with its wings spread and a shield at its breast. The eagle’s talons separately grasp a bundle of arrows and an olive branch. Sixteen stars appear between the eagle’s head and a cluster of clouds above, although some varieties have a different number of stars. A scroll within the eagle’s beak carries the motto E PLURIBU UNUM. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appear around the outer edge of the coin. The coin bears no indication of the denomination.
In late 1796, sixteen stars were added to the obverse design, representing the current number of states in the Union. The stars were configured eight to the left and eight to the right of Liberty. This arrangement would be altered in 1797, when the number of stars was reduced to thirteen, representing only the original states. These stars were positioned seven to the left and six to the right. An unusual variety was created in 1806, with the stars positioned eight to the left and five to the right.
Every issue of the Draped Bust Quarter Eagle series had an extremely low mintage, ranging from just 427 pieces in 1797 to 6,812 pieces in 1807. These figures carry some uncertainty, as the early the administration of the United States Mint was imprecise and certain dies may have been carried over to later years. There are a smaller number of individual varieties for this type compared to the larger gold denominations due to the relatively low number of dies needed for production.