Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the $2.50 Liberty Head ¼ Eagle was produced continuously from 1840 to 1907 with each coin containing just under an 1/8th ounce of gold.
The obverse design features an idealized bust image of Lady Liberty facing left wearing a coronet with “LIBERTY” inscribed. Above the bust design are 13 stars to represent the original states or colonies.
The reverse features an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. On the outer periphery above the eagle is the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and just below the eagle design is the denomination "2 ½ D." A mint mark for Charlotte (C), Dahlonega (D), New Orleans (O), and San Francisco (S) is located at the bottom of the design below the eagle's claws. Coins minted at the Philadelphia Mint carried no mint marks.
Though there are many small die varieties the series has only one major variety referred to as the California or CAL. Issue. In 1848, the military governor turned over 230 ounces of gold to the Secretary of War. That gold was later minted into 1848 ¼ Eagles and to differentiate it from other issues the letters “CAL.” was punched just above the eagle design.
General Market Notes
The keys to the series are the 1841, 1848 CAL issue, and 1856-D issues. The semi-keys are the 1840-D, 1854-D, 1855-D, 1864, 1865, and 1875 issues.
For the value investor the 1883 and 1884 issue with a mintage of less than 2,000 (each) carries a price tag only slightly higher than that of more common issues. Another potential bargain is the 1892 issue with a slightly higher mintage of 2,440.
Due to the high valuations of these coins it is not uncommon to discover altered or counterfeit coins. It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen but a certified coin from a reputable seller.