1866 $2 1/2 MS65 PCGS. The tiny mintage of 3,080 business strikes gives an indication of the rarity of this issue in any grade. Garrett and Guth, in their recently released Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, provide confirmation: "The 1866 quarter eagle is very rare in Mint State, with very few coins having attained that status. The date was virtually unknown in Uncirculated condition before the last several years. A few coins have since surfaced, but they are rarely offered." Here, then, we have a coin that is literally among the rarest of the rare as a Gem specimen of the issue. The PCGS population data show a total of 21 examples of the 1866 in all grades, with only two coins--the present Gem and a single MS64 coin--in Mint State, while the remainder range from Fine to AU55. The average grade is a bit better than Choice XF. NGC has also graded one coin each in MS64 and MS65, with a few more circulated coins but in the same grade spread.
The present example boasts a bold strike around the peripheries, so that all stars show full centril details. The date is sharp, and the beaded hair cords that bind Liberty's bun are well detailed. Light softness is seen on the tresses just above Liberty's forehead. Her cheek in particular, as well as the fields in general, are remarkably free of singular abrasions. On the reverse, a few light ticks in the fields are consistent with the grade. Minor strike weakness is confined to the left (facing) shield border and the eagle's claws and fletchings. Both sides sport exuberant luster over reddish-gold, beautiful surfaces. This coin offers not only real rarity, it also offers superior surfaces that are as enticing as the coin is elusive. The finest at PCGS, and tied with one piece at NGC (3/07). (#7803)