Quarter Dollar, Coin Type from United States - detailed information

Quarter Dollar, Coin Type from United States (issued 1796 - )
Coin TypeQuarter Dollar

The Quarter Dollar is a United States coin worth 25 cents. It has a diameter of 0.955 inch (24.26 mm) and a thickness of 0.069 inch (1.75 mm). It has been produced on and off since 1796 and consistently since 1831, initially in silver and since 1965 in copper-nickel.

The choice of a quarter-dollar as a denomination - as opposed to the one fifth (twenty cents) more common elsewhere - originated with the practice of dividing Spanish milled dollars into eight wedge-shaped segments, which gave rise to the name "piece of eight" for that coin, or into quarters.

Obverse
United States / Quarter Dollar - obverse photo

There have been a number of obverse designs during the history of the denomination.

The first design (1796 - 1807) showed the Draped Bust of Miss Liberty within a toothed border. Liberty has flowing hair and is facing right. Around above, the inscription LIBERTY. Around the rim, fifteen stars (eight to the left and seven to the right) representing the 15 states which were then members of the Union. Some time during 1797 this was changed to show 13 stars instead. Below the portrait, the date of issue: [year].

The second design (1815 - 1838) had the Capped Bust of Miss Liberty within a beaded border. She faces left; her hair is covered by a cloth cap secured by a band inscribed LIBERTY, with tresses flowing down to her shoulder. Her neckline is draped with a gown, secured with a brooch at the shoulder. Around the rim, thirteen stars (seven to the left and six to the right) representing the original 13 states. Below the portrait, the date of issue: [year].

The third design (1838 - 1891) showed a Seated Liberty - clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap (a type of cap which in Ancient Rome was worn by freed slaves). With her right hand, she supports the Union Shield, which has thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). Across the shield, a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY. Thirteen stars around above represent the 13 original states. During 1840, the design was slightly modified with additional drapery of Liberty's dress, flowing down from her left elbow.

In the exergue below the figure, the date of issue: [year]. Between 1853 and 1855 and in 1873-1874, arrows on both sides of the date indicate a reduction and later increase in the weight of the denomination.

The Barber Quarter Dollar (1892 - 1916) shows a portrait of Miss Liberty facing right, her hair in a Phrygian cap and wearing a laurel wreath, with the word LIBERTY in tiny letters in a band above her forehead. The designer's initial B (for [Charles] Barber) is incuse on the next truncation. Around above, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; below the portrait, the date: [year].

The Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar (1916 - 1930) shows the standing figure of Miss Liberty, emerging from an opening between two pedestals; she holds an olive branch in her right hand, and a shield decorated with the Shield of the United States in her left hand. On the pedestals, divided by the figure of Liberty, is inscribed the motto IN GOD WE TRUST with the "U" in "trust" shaped (in the original Latin fashion) as a V, so IN GOD WE TRVST. Vertically on the pedestals, thirteen stars (seven on the left, six on the right). Around above, LIBERTY. Below the figure, the date [year]. The designer's initial M (for [Hermon Atkins] MacNeil) is at the base of the right pedestal.

The best known design is the Washington Quarter Dollar (1932 - 2021); the obverse shows the portrait of George Washington, the first President of the United States (1789 - 1797), facing left. He has long hear, tied below the neck with a ribbon. The designer's initials JF (for John Flanagan) are in relief on the neck truncation.

Until 1998, and in 2022: around above, the inscription LIBERTY. In smaller letters on two lines below left, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Around below, the date of issue: [year]. In 1999, some inscriptions were transferred from the reverse to the obverse: to the left of the portrait, the inscription LIBERTY. On three lines to the right, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Around above, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Around below, the value and denomination in words: QUARTER DOLLAR.

This design was issued in silver from 1932 to 1964, and was then debased to copper-nickel.

To coincide with the American Women Quarter Dollar Program, in 2022 the portrait on the obverse was changed for the version by Laura Gardin Fraser which was a runner-up in the 1931 competition for an obverse design featuring George Washington. The designer's initials LGF are in relief on the neck truncation.

Obverse Inscription LIBERTY IN GOD WE TRUST [year]
Reverse
United States / Quarter Dollar - reverse photo

There have been a number of reverse designs during the history of the denomination.

The first design, known as the Small Eagle was only issued in 1796. The main device on the reverse is an eagle, standing on a rock, with open wings, looking to right. Around the eagle, a laurel wreath tied with a ribbon below. Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The rim is denticled (toothed). Value and denomination are not displayed on the coin.

The second design is known as the Heraldic Eagle and was issued from 1804 to 1807. At centre, it shows the main part of the obverse (or front) of the Great Seal of the United States, which displays the full achievement of the national coat of arms. The design has the Union Shield at centre. The supporter of the shield is a bald eagle with its wings outstretched; it holds a bundle of seven arrows in its right talon, and an olive branch in its left talon. In its beak, the eagle clutches a scroll with the motto E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One"). Over its head there appears a "glory" with of clouds and 13 mullets (stars). Below, divided by the lowest part of the eagle, the abbreviated value and denomination given in cents: 25 C. (25 cents).

The recurring number 13 refers to the 13 original states. The arrows and olive branch together symbolise that the United States has "a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war". The eagle has its head turned towards the arrows - unlike later versions where it looks towards the olive branch, to symbolise a preference for peace. Around, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The rim is denticled (toothed).

From 1815 to 1891, the reverse showed a different eagle, perched, with open wings, looking to left. On its breast, the Union Shield at centre, with thirteen vertical stripes, with a horizontal bar on top. Around above, a scroll inscribed with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM ("Out of Many, One"). Around the outer rim, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below the eagle, the abbreviated value and denomination: 25 C. (Twenty-five Cents) until 1838, then abbreviated as QUAR. DOL. (quarter dollar) 1838 to 1891.

The Barber Quarter Dollar (1892 - 1916) shows the main part of the obverse (or front) of the Great Seal of the United States, being the Union Shield at centre, the supporter of which is a bald eagle with its wings outstretched. From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of thirteen arrows in its left talon, and an olive branch with thirteen leaves in its right talon. In its beak, the eagle clutches a scroll with the motto E · PLURIBUS UNUM ("Out of Many, One"). Over its head there appears a "glory" of 13 mullets (stars).

Around above, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Around below, the value and denomination: · QUARTER DOLLAR ·.

The reverse of the Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar (1916 - 1930) has as its central device an eagle flying to right. Above, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with the first two words around near the rim and "OF AMERICA" on two lines horizontally below. In small letters below that, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM; the letters U are rendered as V, so: E PLVRIBVS VNVM. Around below, the value and denomination in words: QUARTER DOLLAR. The design also includes thirteen stars representing the original thirteen States of the Union - five on the left, five on the right, and three below the eagle.

The best known design is the Washington Quarter Dollar (1932 - 1998); the central device on the reverse is the American eagle with outspread wings, facing the viewer; it is perched on a bundle of arrows framed below by two olive branches. Above, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. In small letters below that, on two lines the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (translated from Latin: Out of many, one). Around below, the value and denomination in words: QUARTER DOLLAR.

This design was issued in silver from 1932 to 1964, and was then debased to copper-nickel.

In 1999, the U.S. Mint stopped issuing the same "definitive" quarter dollar type every year, and embarked on a program of issuing a large variety of circulating commemorative designs (five or six different one every year), grouped around a general theme running for several years. These are:
- State Quarter (1999 - 2008) - 50 designs, each representing one of the 50 states of the United States
- DC and U.S. Territories Quarter (2009) - six designs, representing the federal District of Columbia, and five territories associated with the United States
- America the Beautiful (2010 - 2021) - 56 designs representing national parks and other national sites in each state, federal district or territory of the US; for the first time, this was running in parallel with a series of five-ounce bullion coins with the same designs
- American Women Quarter Dollar (2022 - 2025) - with a total of 20 designs, the program honours five women on five reverse designs per year, selected for "contributions to the United States in a wide spectrum of accomplishments and fields, including but not limited to suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and arts".

Reverse Inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA QUARTER DOLLAR
EdgeMilledEdge InscriptionNone
Notes

See also: Non-Circulating Legal Tender Quarter Dollar.

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