1842 Small Date Liberty Seated Quarter
This is a compilation of material from NGC's website, Kagins Auction site, Heritage Auctions, and Q. David Bowers book American Coin Treasures and Hoards.
Mark Trout, web master for the Ocala Coin Club
In the 1930's and 1940's Oscar G. Schilke (1903-1965) advertised in newspapers to buy coins. An electrical contractor by profession, he enjoyed coin collecting and sought several avenues to enhance his collection. In addition to his ads, he had arrangement with certain banks in Connecticut and New York whereby he would visit their lobbies and conduct free coin appraisals for bank clients. Over the years he acquired many interesting items.
While the date of this phenomenal acquisition is unknown (somewhere in the late 1940's), and the where the coins were exactly located, the story of this treasure is one of the best finds of coins by anyone's imagination. A Connecticut woman brought the coins to Schilke. Oscar could hardly believe his eyes as he opened the maroon colored leather box. He was amazed by the beauty of the amazing 1842 proof set: one each, of a halfcent, a large cent, half dime, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, and silver dollar!
The set was reportedly found in a Revolutionary War-era house that was the residence of a former Connecticut governor. Paul Kagin recalls that the set was originally found "behind the paneling" of the house when it was razed. Alternatively, Q. David Bowers recalls that the set was found in "a dresser drawer." Regardless, the seven copper and silver coins were in the maroon leather box, lined in plush blue interior. It was an original 1842 proof set in exquisite condition!
Among the wonders of this set is the half cent described as an original red Proof, large berries reverse, with splashes of pale blue toning appear on virtually full red surfaces with a few minuscule spots on each side. The surfaces offer nicely mirrored fields with sharply defined, satin devices, yielding light cameo contrast especially evident on the obverse. There just a dozen known examples!
The quarter dollar was the small date variety of numerals, and all the Philadelphia circulated pieces had the large date numerals. (See the photo above from Heritage.) A few presentation pieces were minted with the small date die. Fewer than 10 are known!
The Seated Liberty silver dollar (no motto variety) Gem proof 1842 is possibly the finest existing coin of its kind. The Seated dollar displayed brilliant, deeply mirrored fields with splashes of gold and blue toning. A few stars are weak, and the top of the left (facing) wing is indistinct, but all other design elements are sharply defined. The devices exhibit satin luster with a hint of cameo contrast.
With such a treasure trove of beauty and value, the Schilke collection was broken and sold to various buyers through auctions in the subsequent decades. The dollar coin alone fetched over $90,000 dollars when auctioned!
Keep your collector eyes open! You never know when or where you may find the next significant piece for your collection. Read, study and prepare for coin shows, shopping your favorite coin dealer, or even a flea market or yard sale, and find something of significant interest (or even value) as you build your collection.
A Long-Lost Proof Set Story