Tag Archives: Quarter

The History Of The Quarter: Part 2

Last time, we had just finished discussing the Heraldric Eagle Draped Bust quarter that was in production from 1804-1807 and how that the quarter had been having a hard time getting started and being used within commerce. Instead, it was hoarded and melted down for its silver content since it was heavier than the 2 Spanish Reale piece that was being circulated at the same time. Read on, as we continue our journey through the quarter’s interesting past.

1815-28 Large Size Capped Bust Quarter

Large Size Capped Bust QuarterThe American Revolution had created a ripple effect that had spread across Europe. France underwent its own bloody revolution and from it spawning the Napoleonic Wars, however, this also caused an influx in immigrants to the United States as they fled war-torn Europe. Enter John Reich, a German immigrant who fled Germany during the Napoleonic wars. After making his way to the US, Mr. Reich was hired by the Philadelphia branch of the US mint in 1807 and was tasked with creating new coin designs.

Reich’s designs brought a European touch to American coinage. The obverse design shows Lady Liberty facing left surrounded by thirteen stars. The reverse showed an eagle sitting on a branch, wings outstretched with the Union Shield on its chest and the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM appearing on the scroll above the eagle’s head.

Lady Liberty appeared as quite the buxom woman on this series of coins, which caused the press to jokingly call the representation of Liberty as looking like “the artist’s rotund mistress.” This design would be used for all US coinage in accordance with the policy of the US mint at that time. Even though the design was highly criticized, Reich’s design represents a technological breakthrough over his predecessor’s design. Because of the simplicity of the design, fewer design elements needed to be added by hand, which in turn, reduced production time by making it easier to design a functional die, and increased the life of the die as well which made the coins more consistent in mintages.

This series of coins had a relatively low mintage, with the total 11 year run only striking 1.3 million pieces. VG to VF pieces are easily found for collecting purposes, however, uncirculated are rare to non-existent. Two major rarities in this coin exist in the 1822-23 series and the proof-only series of 1827. The 1827 proofs hold significance due to the fact that they’re mainly associated with Joseph Mickley, the “Father of American Coin Collecting” who obtained 4 proof issues of the 1827 series.

Small Size Capped Bust Quarter

Small Size Capped Bust QuarterIn 1831, major technological changes had come to the newly constructed 2nd Philadelphia Mint. A device known as a close collar, or rather, a collar die was used with the production of the new quarter. Smaller in size, the quarter retained the design by its predecessor with some changes made to compensate for the smaller design area. The “E Pluribus Unum” motto was removed much to the chagrin of government and treasury officials. Additionally, the devices for the design were deepened giving it a more cameo appearance on the coin and also resulted in higher detail in the strikes.

The Small Sized Capped Bust had a shorter run than the large size, but had almost four times the strikes with a total coming to 4.2 million coins produced. All of the coins were produced at the Philadelphia Mint, and there are no stand out points in the series that are rarities. Small size quarters can be viewed as a great success for the mechanical advances that this series incorporated. Even though the design was a re-work of Reich’s earlier design, the precise, uniform appearance of the coins due to the new technology used make them state of the art for the time. This series and design would end abruptly in 1838 to begin preparation of dies for the new Seated Liberty design, which we’ll discuss next week.

Well, that’s it for this week’s walk down history of the Quarter. Come back next week for part three. In the mean time, check out the different numismatic collectibles we carry over at our store. Now if you excuse me, I have some old quarters to sift through.

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A Brief History of US Coins

Something that is quite fascinating that many people don’t actually know is the history of that change that sits in your change jar or in your car. For example, did you know that the dime is actually the third iteration of the dime? Or that there used to be a half dime before there was a nickel? Or that the Lincoln penny is actually the latest in a very long line of pennies? Today, we delve briefly into the history of our pocket change and see the rich history from where our currency comes from.

The Lincoln Penny

1909-S VDB Lincoln cent

For many of us, the Lincoln head penny is the only penny that we know, with Lincoln’s profile on one side and the monument on the other. But, the truth is that the Lincoln cent piece didn’t start in circulation until 1909 and broke the mold where minting was concerned as it was the first US coin to feature a president on it. It had been tradition since Washington’s presidency that no coin feature the depiction of a president past or present. So when this coin was brought up for review, it had met some resistance from traditionalists, but they all fell by the way side in front of Theodore Roosevelt who pushed the coin design through after having just approved four new designs for the gold eagle denominations. The first year it was minted the lincoln cent had the designers initials VDB at the base of the reverse. This led to a public outcry and the initals were quickly removed, which in turn, created the coveted 1909-S VDB cent. Another interesting fact, in 1943, when copper was scarce during World War II, the penny was made out of a steel alloy which led to another collector’s item. Who knew the penny would hold so much sway?

1943 Steel Lincoln Cent Obverse

The Steel Lincoln Penny

The Jefferson Nickel

1945 Jefferson NickelIntroduced in 1938, the Jefferson Nickel is the only coin to still be made of its original composition today. Almost 80 years later, this humble coin is still being minted honoring our third president. Early in 1938 the Treasury Department announced a competition for designs to replace the Buffalo/Indian Head nickel. The rules of the contest was that the obverse would feature an “authentic portrait” of our third president with the reverse featuring his home near Charlottesville. Additionally, the design had to fit the technical requirements of Mint. Out of 390 models, German-American Felix Schlag’s design was selected. Schlag’s initials didn’t appear on the nickel until almost 30 years later.

The Roosevelt Dime

Silver Roosevelt DimeAnother coin with a rich history is the dime. The first ten cent piece was coined in 1793 and was the last of the first issuance of coins when the US mint first opened. The dime’s design has changed over 11 times since its first issuance in 1793, with an average of 12 years per major design. The Roosevelt Dime has been the longest running design in the coin’s lifespan with it coming to it’s 70th birthday in 2016. The Roosevelt Dime was issued under pressure from the US public who, in 1945, wanted some memorial for the fallen leader. This coin broke the 40 year tradition of asking outside artists for designs and was tasked internally by the US mint to their chief engraver. While there are no rare dates for the Roosevelt dime, there is one premium dime that is worth more than its silver bullion value, the 1949-S dime that was minted out of the US mint in San Francisco.

The Washington Quarter

Washington Silver Quarter 1944

Our final coin today is the Quarter. The Washington Quarter’s story is interesting to say the least. After the dark shadow of the Great Depression had fallen across the us in 1931, Americans had little to celebrate. However, the following year, 1932, would mark George Washington’s 200th birthday and to help bolster public spirit the Treasury Department were ready to mark the occasion. Originally, the Treasury Department had proposed a half dollar be struck to honor the birth of the founding father. The contest was started early and while most entrants were denied, one had gained unanimous favor by the Commission of Fine arts. The original design of the coin was done by Laura Gardin Fraser, the designer for the Oregon Trail commemorative coin and wife to the creator of the Buffalo nickel. However, the commission wasn’t the only party that needed to be pleased for the coin to be minted.

Congress then got into the debate, due to the fact that the Treasury Department needed their approval to change the design for the half dollar. Once they were asked, they instead compromised and decided to change the quarter instead. But, it was the final person, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who still had something to say.

Mr. Mellon, had his own views on art, and felt that the design by John Flanagan was superior to the Fraser design. Flanagan’s design was simple, more like a portrait with Washington’s profile on the obverse and a heraldic eagle adorning the reverse. With it’s simple design the mint was able to issue the coin easily and quickly. Since it began production of the coin in 1932, the mint has issued over 21 billion coins, an amazing quantity by any standard.

Well, I hope you liked our brief look into the history of our nation’s coinage, if you’re interested in our selection of collectable coins, you can browse through them here.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.

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