A sleeper is a coin that is perceived as undervalued by some collectors. It is not a case where it is being ignored deliberately, but a simple fact that it might not be appreciated for being the scarce and interesting coin that it is. The 1815 quarter is almost certainly such a coin.
Some things about the 1815 immediately stand out as it was the first quarter to have the new John Reich design. That fact probably made the 1815 interesting to some at the time, although it probably did not translate into unusual numbers being saved. After all, this was 1815 and not 1916 or 1999. While a new design might have been interesting, it was not likely to have been kept.
The 1815 has another interesting aspect in that it was the first quarter produced since 1807. That was especially unusual as the production of silver dollars and gold eagles had been suspended in 1804. That’s a lot of missing denominations.
Why there was no quarter production for such a long period is an interesting question that has never been fully explained. In fairness, supplies of silver were sometimes short and even there was silver, those supplying it to the Mint simply requested other denominations. There were also the usual problems at the Mint of shortened work periods because of things like the almost yearly Yellow Fever epidemics in Philadelphia and then there was the somewhat unusual problem of British troops runnning around the country during the War of 1812.
The Mint probably didn’t plan not to strike quarters for eight years. It just happened.
Of course, with no quarters being minted for such a long time once they returned they probably circulated rapidly. The coin did not have a high mintage, just 89,235. This is not a record low. All quarters produced to 1815 numbered just about 600,000 pieces, so there would have been a real shortage of the denomination, perhaps resulting in more than usual wear on the 1815 coins once they reached circulation.
There are any number of interesting questions to be raised when it comes to this quarter. One concerns the fact that some were countermarked “E,” “L,” and “R.” We don’t know why. We do know they are numerous. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded 53 examples of 1815 quarters plus 12 with the “E” and another three with the “L.”
The availability of the 1815 is interesting as well. About 20,000 pieces of the mintage might not have been delivered until January 1816. Whatever the delivery date, there should not have been many saved at the time of issue except for the appeal of the new design.
Currently, the 1815 seems cheap when compared to the quarters that preceded it. It is $120 in G-4, $3,800 in MS-60 and $39,000 in MS-65. The MS-65 price is $17,000 higher than it was in the late 1990s.
Of the number seen by NGC, 30 were in Mint State, with a surprising 14 being MS-64. The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 82, with 36 being MS-60 or higher and 14 are MS-64. For an early quarter these are large numbers. They help explain why examples in MS-60 or less are attainable, but that would change with just a few more collectors.
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