Even ordinary coin dates can have an interesting story. The 1857 Seated Liberty quarter was an average date, but it has an interesting story and that results in a situation where if you like ultra-grade coins from the 1850s, the 1857 is a date to remember, as there are some exceptional examples available.
The story of the 1857 Seated Liberty quarter starts out simply enough in that there was a mintage of 9,644,000 pieces. That total was high, but not a record at the time.
We would assume that the chance of anyone saving any numbers of a quarter with that sort of mintage back in 1857 would have been minimal, for a number of reasons. Few people collected quarters at the time because the denomination was too high and the exciting news was the release of the first Flying Eagle cent. We know there were hoards of the new small-size cents, but a cent hoard is less expensive than a hoard of quarters.
Whether it was for numismatic reasons or silver, there was simply no reason to acquire a large number of 1857 Seated Liberty quarters, yet someone did. We find the story in American Coin Treasures and Hoards, the reference on hoards by Q. David Bowers.
Bowers reports on Ella Wright, who was the one-time secretary to famous Philadelphia dealer Henry Chapman. According to Bowers, John J. Ford Jr. was able to make assorted purchases in the 1940s from Ella Wright and in that series of purchases was one of the ?proof-like gem 1857 Liberty Seated quarter dollars, perhaps 50 to 100 in all.?
It is worth remembering that Ella Wright had been selling the Chapman inventory for some years, as he had passed away in the mid-1930s. Chapman had great contacts at the Mint and reportedly had superb stocks of new issues. That means the 50 to 100 examples of the 1857 Seated Liberty quarter purchased by Ford might not have been the total hoard of the date. We do not know how many examples of the 1857 Seated Liberty quarter might have originally been in the Chapman hoard. It seems likely that he had not done the original hoarding, but we cannot be sure.
It would have been strange for someone to have acquired even 50 1857 Seated Liberty quarters, but throughout U.S. history there have been odd or unusual hoards, like 1835 half dime and various relatively common large cents.
The notion that there were more examples than what John Ford remembers buying comes from grading services. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen more than 250 Mint State examples of the 1857 ? an awfully large number. Moreover, of the Mint State total, 52 were MS-65, 39 were MS-66, 17 were in MS-67 and a single coin was MS-68. Those are large numbers in grades not normally seen.
The Professional Coin Grading Service has a similar situation, as it has seen about 225 examples of the 1857 in Mint State and once again, 38 were MS-65, 29 were MS-66 and there was one coin each in MS-67 and MS-68.
Which of those top grades were coins from the Ford purchases, we do not know, but it can be said the hoard made an enormous difference in our supplies of the 1857 today. That is especially true in top grades like MS-65, where the 1857 is currently $5,150, but it probably impacts the $385 MS-60 price, as well. The 1857 is one date where many can afford a top-grade example and not simply any Mint State example.