Standing Liberty Quarter Dollars 1916-1930 Coin Guide
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Standing Liberty Quarter Dollars 1916-1930
The year was 1916. World World I was raging in Europe, and the
political climate in the United States was definitely guarded. Nine years
earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt had initiated using classical design
motifs for our gold coins, and now, as the Coinage Act of 1890 had
authorized, it was time to change the smaller silver coins. U.S. Mint
Chief Engraver Charles Barber's "uninspired" design had marked
the quarter, dime and half dollar for the preceding quarter century, and
the public was ready for something different. It was the perfect
opportunity to issue a coin that, as a contemporary government report put
it, "was intended to typify in a measure the awakening interest of
the country to it's own protection."
Thus, the Standing Liberty quarter was born. As was the case with the
other new coinage, a competition was held to select the design. The artist
chosen was a prominent sculptor of the day, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, who was
known for his works dealing with Indians and American history,
particularly on public buildings and monuments.
MacNeil's obverse design features a standing, frontal view of Liberty,
a portrayal reminiscent of ancient Greek sculpture. Her left arm is
upraised, bearing a shield in a posture of protection. Being drawn from
the shield by her right hand is a drapery, while this same hand offers up
an olive branch. A mixed message certainly, but one that told our European
neighbors we were ready for anything, war or peace. The inscription
LIBERTY is at the top of the obverse, the date below, with the motto IN
GOD WE TRUST flanking the figure of Liberty.
The reverse of this type, as mandated by law, depicts an American
eagle, here shown in full flight. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and
motto E PLURIBUS UNUM are above, while the denomination QUARTER DOLLAR is
below. The final product seems to reflect the influence of Augustus Saint-Gaudens,
who was the most famous sculptor of the time and, some years earlier, a
mentor for Mr. MacNeil.
The first coins came off the presses December 16, 1916, and the series
continued through 1930, during which time over 226 million coins were
struck at three different mints: Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco
(S), and Denver (D). The mintmark can be found just to the left of the
date, while the designer's initial M is to the right. No coins were struck
in 1922, and no proofs were authorized, although several satin-finish
proofs of 1916 and 1917 are reported to exist.
There are two major subtypes of the Standing Liberty quarter, Type 1
and Type 2. Type 1 was issued for only two years, 1916-1917, as there was
some concern over Liberty's bared breast. In 1917, the design was
modified, and the offending feature was from then on covered with chain
mail. Type 2, issued from 1917 through 1930, was substantially reworked,
but the most evident changes were the repositioning of the stars on the
reverse along with the chain mail on Miss Liberty mentioned earlier.
Other, less obvious changes included a smoothing of the fields and a
pronounced curvature to the dies. Both Type 1 and Type 2 quarters were
produced by all three mints during 1917.
The obverse also underwent a minor change beginning with the coinage of
1925, which some consider a subtype. The date was one of the higher
features on earlier coins so that it wore off too rapidly. Circulated
quarters of the 1917-24 period are consequently scarce with readable
dates. To remedy this situation, the date area was recessed for all
As one of our most beautiful coin designs, the Standing Liberty quarter
is very popular with collectors today. The series is collected in its
entirety by date and mint or as part of a 20th Century type set. Unlike
many other series, it is still possible to complete a full set in
uncirculated condition-a valuable treasure that very few people will have
the pleasure of owning.
One of the key dates for the series is the issue dated 1916. With a
mintage of only 52,000 pieces, it has always been sought by collectors.
However, it does exist in larger numbers than one would expect. As with
any new design, both collectors and the general public saved numerous
examples. Original rolls, though expensive, were still available as late
as the 1950s.
The rarest Standing Liberty quarter is a Type 2 issue, the famous
1918/7-S overdate. Created when two differently dated hubs were used to
prepare a single obverse die, the error was not discovered by numismatists
until a number of years later, long after most of the coins had entered
circulation. This coin is rare in all grades, but especially so in the
higher ranges of mint state. The mintage figure for this interesting
variety is unknown, but obviously miniscule. For years, one saw many
otherwise complete sets that lacked only the overdate. It's literally one
of the most desirable collector coins of the 20th Century.
Other less rare but still challenging dates in high grade are 1920-S,
1926-S and the toughest date to find with a fully struck head on the
Liberty figure, 1927-S. No coins in this series can actually be called
common in gem condition, but 1917 Type 1 and 1930 quarters appear in
full-head gem uncirculated condition most frequently. Many other issues
are periodically available in gem condition, but not very often with a
When grading this design, the points to inspect carefully on the
obverse are Liberty's right knee and the center of the shield. On the
reverse, the eagle's breast and left wing will first show wear. Coins
graded "full head" are much scarcer than those without this
feature fully struck, but this classification has more to do with the
quality of the strike than with grade. To qualify for this designation,
the coin must exhibit the following three features: three leaves in
Liberty's hair must be totally visible, the hairline along Liberty's brow
must be complete and the ear indentation must be evident. Collectors will
pay substantially more for these fully struck specimens.
Only in production for fifteen years, the Standing Liberty quarter was
to suffer an early demise. 1932 marked the 200th anniversary of George
Washington's birth, and a new quarter dollar featuring his portrait was
introduced as a circulating commemorative. Though no longer made in silver
for circulation, the Washington quarter is still being minted today.
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters Weight: 6.25 grams Composition: .900 silver,
.100 copper Edge: Reeded Net Weight: .18084 ounce pure silver
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bowers, Q. David, United States Dimes,
Quarters and Half Dollars, Bowers and Merena Galleries, Wolfeboro, NH,
1986. Breen, Walter, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and
Colonial Coins, F.C.I./Doubleday, New York, 1988. Cline, J.H., Standing
Liberty Quarters, 3rd Edition, J.H. Cline, Palm Harbor, FL, 1997. Vermeule,
Cornelius, Numismatic Art in America, The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971.
Coin Information Provided Courtesy NGC.