The year 1804 is just magic when it comes to coins. The main reason is the famous 1804 dollar which, of course, was not even produced in 1804 but rather a few decades later. That said, everyone remembers 1804 simply because of the dollar. It’s a little ironic as, although the dollar is good, there are a number of other spectacular coins from 1804, including the gold Eagle with a plain ‘4’ which is tougher than the 1804.
There are some awfully good regular coins which were issued back in 1804 and one of those coins was the 1804 quarter which has an interesting story as well a very low mintage.
We cannot point to any particular reason for the generally low 1804 mintages, although the half cent was one exception as it did have an unusually high mintage that year. The other coins which were produced in 1804, however, tended to have lower total mintages. That was certainly true of the 1804 quarter which had a mintage of just 6,738.
There is actually a lot more to the 1804 quarter story than just the mintage, although that low total certainly suggests that the 1804 will be a better date and that might be putting it mildly.
One of the unusual things about the 1804 is that it was just the second quarter of the United States with the first having been produced in 1796 when it had a mintage of just 6,146. To go a number of years after a mintage like that and then produce another date with a mintage of less than 7,000 pieces has to seem odd.
The situation was apparently a result of the requests at the time, as people were allowed to order the coins to be made from the metal they provided. Apparently, they ordered a bag full of silver dollars rather than a cart full of quarters and that caused a problem as there was a national coin shortage and it was not getting any better as the dollars ordered were then sometimes exported. That saw silver dollar and gold Eagle production suspended in 1804 to free up the Mint to make lower denominations. It did make a difference although you could not tell it from the 1804 quarter mintage.
There were not many collectors at the time, so the 1804 quarter was almost certainly not saved. It lists for $4,500 in G4 today, while an MS60 is priced at $95,000. In fact, finding an 1804 quarter in any grade is not easy and many of the examples which are found are poorly made or have other problems. It was, after all, 1804 and no one was too concerned about quality and the public who used the coins were not exactly worried about wear and tear or keeping them in top grades.
It was also a case where there was no saving of the 1804 at the time it was released as there was almost no numismatic activity and that was especially true when you were talking about upper denominations like a quarter.
The result of the situation can be seen today in the grading service totals. The 1804 has been seen about 133 times by NGC with perhaps 5 being called Mint State. By comparison, the lower mintage 1796 has been seen about 186 times with 35 being called Mint State. At PCGS the total number of 1804 quarters seen stands at 306 while the 1796 is at 407. The total number of 1804 quarters in Mint State is 8 compared to 38 for the 1796.
Of course the 1796 is the more historic of the two as the first quarter of the United States and that helps to explain its higher prices. That said, the 1804 is a tougher date in totals and in terms of number seen in Mint State.
The future for the 1804 remains open to question. It is certainly an extremely tough coin, but it is also a coin which very few collect. In the case of type collectors they do not need the 1804 as they can take another more available date and that is a big difference between the 1804 and 1796 which is a one-year type coin.
Even with limited demand, the 1804 should continue to be a solid, but not spectacular, coin. That is especially true in top circulated grades and Mint State where the 1804 is simply not found in any numbers. It may not skyrocket, but no one owning a nicer example of the 1804 is likely to give it up cheaply as it is a very tough coin with a famous date.