Last time we talked we had just finished going over how the changes in minting technology changed the quarter from a large size coin to a smaller size coin. Today, we continue our multi-part look into the history of the quarter.
No Motto Seated Liberty Quarter (1838-1866)
For more than a decade, lauded engraver and medalist Christian Gobrecht had been seeking a permanent position with the US Mint. However, the nepotism in the Mint was too deeply ingrained in its employment practices. Everyone who worked there was a family member or friend of someone else who worked there. However, in 1835, necessity won over nepotism and Gobrecht became the assistant engraver of the US mint. Gobrecht made this design in the spare time he had in-between working on other denominations as part of his job with the US Mint.
In the Fall of 1838, Gobrecht’s design finally saw the light of day and replaced the old Reich Capped Bust design. For the obverse, Gobrecht used a modified version of Lady Liberty, sitting on a rock and surrounded by thirteen stars. For the reverse, Gobrecht took the eagle that was used on many of Reich’s coin designs with the denomination reading “Quar. Dol.” instead of the 25c used on Reich’s design.
This coin is often coined (pun intended) the, “No Motto Seated Liberty Quarter” because it lacked the, “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto that was added to the coin in 1866. Over 36 million strikes of this variety was made from 1838 to 1853 and again from 1856 to 1865. Three mints produced this coin; Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Both New Orleans and San Francisco both contained a mintmark, Philadelphia did not. While proofs do exist for every year this coin was struck, they are extremely rare. Additionally, this coin holds one of the rarest proofs in numismatic collecting. The 1842 small date proof is one of the rarest proofs as only six are known to still exist.
Seated Liberty Quarter With Motto (1866-1891)
In 1866, Reconstruction of the south had just begun. The devastation of the war had sundered many families and had caused the deaths of over 750,000 people collectively. The United States would never be the same again. As Americans, began to rebuild their lives and heal the wounds created from the Civil War, a new motto was necessary to help unite the people once more. In 1864, the motto of, “In God We Trust” was introduced and public reaction was so positive from it that the next year, Congress mandated that it be used on all coinage of suitable size.
A modified version of the Gobrecht design was used for the new minting of the quarter with the motto. Using the same Reich eagle, a graceful banner was added above the eagle stating the new motto on the reverse of the coin. Early mintings of this new design were extremely low during the first few years, due to little bullion reaching the mint due to silver hoarding during the war.
Due to the low numbers of strikes produced, this has led to certain years of the coins production to be extremely scarce rarities. However, it doesn’t stop the occasional gem to show up in collections that were completed years before.
In 1892, after a collective fifty years of service, the Gobrecht design was retired to make way for Charles Barber’s new design.
Well, that’s it for this week’s post, check back again next Friday for our conclusion of the history of the quarter where we’ll dive in with the Barber Quarter and end with the current running coin the Washington Quarter.