Rare Carson City Coin Purchased

1871-CC Seated Quarter PCGS MS-65 - "Ugly duckling coin a real star."

NEVADA FOCUS: Rare Coin Minted In Carson City

Reno Gazette-Journal

A Genuine Star Reporter thinks the coin is an "ugly duckling" because of original toning.

5/11/2002 01:10 p.m. Associated Press

1871-CC Liberty Seated Quarter PCGS MS-65

1871-CC Liberty Seated Quarter PCGS MS-65

At first glance, one of the world's rare coins doesn't appear worth all the fuss Reno collector Rusty Goe makes over it. The 1871 quarter, minted in Carson City, is small and seems a bit tarnished. Looks, apparently, are deceiving. Goe, owner of Southgate Coins and Collectibles, compares the coin to a movie star.

"It's just like a celebrity being on the carpet for the Oscars," Goe said. "There are other actors at the Oscars, but there is only one Tom Cruise. He commands high prices and attention. Celebrity coins come along once in a generation."

Goe keeps his celebrity coin in a vault off the premises and shows it only by appointment. He says he bought the coin last month from a seller who requested anonymity. Goe refuses to say how much he paid for the coin, but estimates it's worth close to $200,000. He says the coin's coloring, the result of chemical reactions over a long period of time, adds to its value. The old quarter isn't supposed to shine.

At the moment, the coin, known as a Seated Liberty Quarter, isn't for sale. But it might be later. "I haven't decided yet," Goe said. "I'm enjoying it."

People who know coins seem to agree that the quarter is something special, in large part because of its Carson City origin. In Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, money minted in Carson City from 1870 to 1873, including the Seated Liberty quarter, is of great rarity. Experts at the Professional Coin Grading Service in Newport Beach, Calif., say Carson City coins are of great value because relatively few were minted and the ones that still exist come with a lot of history.

"That's easily the most romantic of the early mints," Mike Sherman, a grading service executive, said of the U.S. Mint that operated in Carson City from 1870 to 1893. "It carries all the trappings of the Wild West and the Comstock Lode." The Mint was opened in Carson City, Sherman says, because it was close to the rich silver deposits discovered in Virginia City. Instead of shipping silver to other mints, coins were made near the source of the silver. "It was too dangerous to move the bullion around," Sherman said. "You'd put it on a train or a stagecoach, which were easily robbed in the desert."

Sherman's company rates the coin Goe owns 65 on a scale of 1-to-70. It's the highest mark for the 11 1871-CC Seated Liberty quarters known to exist by the grading service. According to the service, 10,890 Seated Liberty quarters were produced in 1871 by the Carson City mint, which is now the Nevada State Museum. In other mints, such as Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco, millions of coins were minted in a year. "For any Philadelphia issue, there were 7 million made," Sherman said.

Breen's encyclopedia said Carson City coins were "deliberately kept limited for political reasons" by the Philadelphia Mint, the country's first, which wanted the Nevada facility closed. Goe said the 1871 Seated Liberty was never issued to the public, by order of the Philadelphia Mint. Breen's book said Carson City received instructions to melt the coins. The only Seated Liberty quarters that left the Mint were a few given as gifts, Goe said. "It starts with how many were made, how many survived and who gives a hoot," Goe said of what makes coins, including the 1871 quarter, valuable. "If there are only two coins of a known date in the world and 500 people care, the bidding gets fierce. Carson City coins are rare in general. They capture people's imaginations."

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal