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Theories on the 1815 and 1825 'E' and 'L' on Quarters

15 posts in this topic

I got this email on the John Reich society at the Baltimore show:


About 17 of us attended the JRCS Regional Meeting at the Whitman Baltimore show last Friday. The meeting was held in Room 301 of the Baltimore Convention Center on Friday afternoon from 4-5:00pm EST.


Dr. Glenn Peterson was our host, and a wonderful job he did. The topic he selected was the 1815 and 1825 ‘E’ and ‘L’ Counterstamped Bust Quarters. This topic has appeared in the John Reich Journal over the years, and always leads to a lively discussion. We still don’t know who did this, or why. This time was no different. The audience was quite engaged with questions and thoughts on this topic.


Glenn kindly shared four beautiful examples of these two counterstamps. He also brought along some early quarters with cuds, another popular collecting area for many JRCS members and others. These were “passed around the audience!”


What are the best theories on the 'E' and 'L' counterstamps? I'm familiar with a few of the theories. What would it take to settle the questions?

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My theory is: Someone took steel embossing punches for E and L, then struck them on a bunch of quarters. The quarters belonged to Enos and Larry, so that's why E and L were used... or maybe it was Ethel and Lucy...?



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The July 2004 issue of the John Reich Journal, official

publication of the John Reich Collectors Society, features

an extensive two-part article by Ted McAuley detailing his

theories on the unusual "E" and "L" counterstamps found on

the obverse of many 1815 and 1825 U.S. quarters. He

makes a very interesting case for the coins' origins with the

Harmony Society of Economy, Pennsylvania, source of the

famous Economite Hoard of early 19th-century coinage

dispersed beginning in 1881. He writes:


"I believe that the "E" and "L" countermarked quarters of

1815 and 1825 originated at the Harmonist Community of

Economy, Pennsylvania. The dates of 1815 and 1825 were

highly symbolic for a community whose daily religious

underpinnings relied heavily on symbolism, and represented

the founding dates of their last two settlements (Harmony-

on-the-Wabash and Economy). Dates would symbolically

distinguish between "veteran" (1815) and "novice" (1825)

membership in the Society during the Great Schism of 1832."


"I believe the "E" represented either "Economite" or "Economy",

while "L" represented either "Leonite" or "Leon".


"The coins probably served as voting tokens during the

pivotal "showdown" recalled by Jacob Henrici - a vote that

determined whether the loyalists (Economites) or the

seceders (Leonites) commanded the allegiance of the majority

of Harmonist members."



Breen thought the coins had been stamped for a class.

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What are the best theories on the 'E' and 'L' counterstamps?

My personal opinion lies with the Harmony Society idea above. Your mileage may vary.


What would it take to settle the questions?

A time machine

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Looks like fertile ground for anyone wanting to really dig into the question rather than copy old guesses and speculation.

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I will speculate that as historical documents are added to NNP, especially ones that involve peripheral issues such as this, much better information will be located among the materials.


Technical question: Were the punches applied to new coins or coins that had already seen circulation?

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  • Member: Seasoned Veteran

The majority of specimen are MS or very close to it. It's likely that all, including the worn coins, were counterstamped when still unworn. They first emerged in the early 1880s, and numerous pieces were on the market at that time. This coincides with the dispersal of the Economite Hoard, which occurred in or right after 1878.

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Thanks David!

OK. New silver went from mint to the depositor (which might be a bank or Bank of the US) then into circulation or shipment to another bank or company. Obsolete silver commonly made its way from origin to a bank, to a sub-treasury, and then to a mint for melting,


Sub-treasuries (and sometimes banks) separated coins by weight. The mints used "lights" and "heavies" during review, but I've never seen anything about stamping the pieces. A bank or sub-treasury might have used some other terms for non-standard weight, such as: "light" and "over" or "excess."


It would also be useful to know the die varieties included in the universe of known specimens, and their relationship to production dates (if known). (The implication of coins being marked early in their circulation lifetime is that the letters were added for some purpose as yet unknown. Showing that the coins came from the "Economite Hoard" does not show they were stamped by the hoard's accumulators.


Is there any verifiable correlation between coin weight and the embossed letter for each date? Distribution of stamps by year? What do we know about Bank of the US practices in reviewing new coins?


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I believe weights have been taken (sorry no source I can quote) and there was no correlation between weights and punches . We can also fairly safely assume that they were all punched at the same time. On the specimens I have had a chance to examine the 1815's were punched with the same punches as the 1825's. Close examination of the punch marks show defects and scratches that were on the punches and those same defects are on the punch marks for each year. If they had been done years apart as the dates on the coins might suggest, it would be unlikely the exact same punches would have been used, or they would have shown deterioration from use in the meantime. So the 1815 coins would have to have been held as a group in uncirculated condition for at least 10 years.

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Here's one I have had since 2005. NGC AU-55*


The counterstamps seem to have been placed very carefully on these. They do not disturb the coin's design and were skillfully done with very little deformation on the reverse opposite the punch. That could be a clue to the origin and intended purpose.





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I'm fairly confident that the punching was done at a single time in or shortly after 1825. As unlikely as it seems today, it was possible for uncirculated 1815-dated quarters to still be on hand at the mint or in a bank, and a shipment of this denomination circa 1825 could have included both dates.


All 1815 quarter dollars are from a single die marriage, and the E and L punchings are additionally known on only one of the three die marriages for 1825: B-2. This is the most common variety for the date. Breen claimed that a few B-3 quarters are known with the stamps, but this is incorrect.


The punching was done with enough precision that it could have occurred at the mint itself, though there's absolutely no known documentation of where, when and by whom this action was performed.

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I'm still with Ethel and Lucy...


[it occurs to me that since the Harmonist Society of Economy, PA were largely German-speaking, that E and L might be better understood in that language or maybe in Swabish dialect? Also the settlement in PA was named "Ökonomie" by the society members - translated into "Economy" in English - it is a reference to the idea of "Economy of Salvation" and not mercantile exchanges. (i.e., God does not do for man that which man can do for himself.)


If the E and L were designators for voting communities, it is almost certain the initials would have been in German. Nothing I've read so far gives any great importance to 1815 and 1825. They moved to Indiana Territory in 1814 and the second PA settlement was opened in 1824]

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