At the turn of the 19th century, two and a half dollars represented a considerable sum of money—five days wages for the average U.S. Mint employee. It was unlikely however, that anyone outside the Philadelphia Mint would see that amount in the form of the new quarter eagle coin: so few were made, and fewer still entered circulation. The denomination may as well not have existed at all. A few large Northeastern banks did occasionally order quarter eagles, but apparently more as a whim than out of necessity, as most remained in their vaults.
Although authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, by all appearances the coin was an unwanted stepchild: it was the last denomination made, and then only in such small quantities as to be of little use in commerce. The cent, half dollar, and half eagle took center stage during this era—they were the real workhorses. The paucity of early quarter eagles has a flip .... (Expand Text)