Like the dime and half dollar, the quarter denomination saw a new design introduced in 1916, the Standing Liberty Quarter, which would be struck for circulation until 1930. A scarce type that is less frequently encountered compared to other denominations, novice collectors often stay away from putting a set together due to the rarity of some dates. Standing Liberty Quarters are especially scarce in uncirculated condition, with virtually all dates being relatively expensive and difficult to find in gem, at least compared to some of the other denominations struck around the same time period. This article will take a look at some of the key dates and semi key-dates of this series.
The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter had the lowest mintage of the series at just 52,000 pieces, struck late in the year when most quarters struck still bore the old Barber design. In fact, production was limited to just two weeks in December 1916 and the coins were not even released into circulation until early the following year. By then very few people paid much attention to the new design, and unlike the introduction of some of the other denominations (such as the Lincoln Cent in 1909) very few people noticed the re-release of the quarter. As a result virtually all 1916 Standing Liberty Quarters quietly entered circulation, where they remained for quite some time. As a result uncirculated pieces are very rare and gem uncirculated pieces only occasionally come up for sale. Without a doubt this is one of the scarcest 20th century quarters in any grade. In 1917 the design of the Standing Liberty Quarter was slightly altered after comments that the image of Liberty on the obverse was too obscene (part of her breast was visible) but luckily enough for type collectors the type 1 issues struck in 1917 are relatively affordable, making the 1916 of interest mostly to specialized collectors of the series.
The Philadelphia Mint was the only Mint facility that struck quarters in 1921, and production of all silver coins was at record low levels that year. A total of 1,916,000 quarters were struck during the year, which was not an extremely low number, but significantly lower compared to the previous year’s high of almost 28 million pieces. Examples are scarce in all grades, as is to be expected, and most pieces are well circulated. Uncirculated examples are scarce but not impossible to find, and most are quite attractive with strong strikes and lustrous surfaces. No quarters were produced in 1922 at any of the Mints, and the Denver Mint would not strike quarters again until 1924.
The 1923-S was the first quarter struck at the San Francisco Mint since 1920 and had a low mintage of 1,360,000 pieces, making it just a bit scarcer than the 1921 discussed above. Examples are once again scarce in all grades but pieces in lower circulated grades can be found with some searching, and uncirculated pieces are available from time to time as well. Most come fairly well struck with full luster and are quite attractive, although the majority of high-end pieces that come to the market these days are untoned, most likely stripped from their original surfaces in hopes of attaining a higher grade. This is not only a problem with the 1923-S but with virtually all uncirculated Standing Liberty Quarters, with originally toned pieces being difficult to find regardless of the date or Mint.
Of the later dates, the 1927-S has by far the lowest mintage, with a mere 396,000 pieces produced, representing the second lowest figure of the series. The 1927-D is also a scarce issue, with 976,000 pieces struck, although it is nowhere as scarce as the 1927-S, especially in uncirculated condition with fully struck details. By the mid 1920s quality at the San Francisco Mint was lacking and an uncirculated 1927-S quarter with fully struck details is a true condition rarity that is very seldom found. In circulated grades the 1927-S is very scarce as well, and the majority of the pieces that are available come in lower circulated grades such as Good, with even Fines and Very Fines extremely scarce.
Other Scarce Dates
The dates discussed above are the scarcest and most well-known dates of the series, although as mentioned above not a single Standing Liberty Quarter date is all that common in uncirculated condition. Most attention seems to go to the 1916 and the 1918/7-S, a well-known overdate variety that is extremely rare in all grades and one of the classic 20th century rarities in American numismatics.
Like Mercury Dimes and Franklin Halves, Standing Liberty Quarters have a special diagnostic that is used by the grading services to denote fully struck coins. In this case, the main diagnostic is the detail in the head of Liberty on the obverse. “Full Head” coins (abbreviated as “FH”) have a full unbroken hairline from brow to neck, all three leaves clearly visible in Liberty’s cap, and a fully visible and clearly distinguished ear hole. Besides the aforementioned 1927-S, other scarce issues in FH are the 1919-D and 1919-S issues, the 1920-S, 1924-S and 1926-S issues struck at the San Francisco Mint, and the 1929-D which is surprisingly difficult to find with Full Head details. Prices for all these coins with the FH designation by either PCGS or NGC are multiples of an uncirculated coin at the same grade level without the FH designation.