Tag Archives: Silver Quarters

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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The History of The Quarter Part 1

The Quarter, one of the most consistent coins in our currency for over one hundred years. This coin wasn’t a derivative of another coin, it didn’t start out of necessity, the quarter dollar has been a cornerstone of our coinage since 1796. It was also the third largest denominations in silver coinage that we had while we were part of a bi-metallic standard, but I’m getting ahead of myself, read on for our brief history on one of our four cornerstone coins.

In 1796 The First US Quarter Appears

While 1796 is made famous for it being the year that President George Washington stepped down, it would also be the start of one of our newest denominations. The (then) fledgeling Philadelphia Mint was preparing to manufacture a new denomination, the quarter dollar, as was authorized by the Mint Act of 1792. Back then, coinage was taken seriously at a completely different level than it is today. Officials saw these first coins as a statement and as our emissaries. These coins would say that we are officially a country, and we should be taken seriously. The educated people of the day understood  that a poorly designed coin would reflect badly on their country, while a well designed coin would be respected worldwide.

The design of this first quarter came about due to the public dislike of the previous copper and silver coin designs. To avoid a repeated embarrassment, Mint Director Henry DeSaussure engaged renowned artist, Gilbert Stuart to do the new design. Stuart, used a prominent Philadelphia socialite, Mrs. William Bingham, as the model for the design. However, all did not go to plan. The bland portrait that ended up on the quarters of 1796 did not resemble the beautiful model that Stuart had sketched. In fact, it had brought so much shame on Stuart, his name was practically forgotten until the late 1800′s when an article in the American Journal of Numismatics made reference to him in the design of the coin.

Only a little over 6,000 of these quarters were struck in 1796, and only two varieties are known. One with a low 6 in the date and one with a high 6. The former being the rarer of the two. While not a rare coin, it is necessary to complete a type set and as this design was only used for one year, it makes the coin extremely popular. The next quarter would not be released until 1804. Additionally, no proofs were struck from the 1796 dies, but several presentation strikings are known to exist.

The Quarter Strikes Back

Today, as I mentioned in the lead-in, the quarter is one of the cornerstones of the US coinage system. It plays a vital role in commerce, and annual production routinely tops 1 billion dollars. However, this wasn’t always the case, after the fiasco of the 1796 quarter, all production of the quarter dollar was suspended for almost 10 years. Quarters were even a rarity seen in the marketplace, few were struck, and fewer were used.

The quarter wouldn’t reappear until 1804. Using the same obverse as before, the reverse was replaced with the heraldic eagle used by the rest of the silver coins for the time. The coin would only have a short run of four years, and again had a miniscule production. Combined production of the four years it was minted totaled over 500,000 strikes. Additionally, no proofs were made if Mint records are correct. It is extremely rare to find the coin in mint condition, and nearly unheard of in grade levels above M-65.

After the production finished in 1807, this denomination would be shelved again for another very long break. Also, the coins that were still in circulation were being hoarded by people, because of the higher silver content than the Mexican and Spanish two reales pieces at the time.

Tune in next week for part two! Do you have either of these rarities? What do you think is the rarest quarter? Let us know in the comments below!

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