Quarters, known as quarter dollars in the United States and Coras in Latin America, are among the most loved and collected denominations of all time. For some specific coins collectors pay up to 5 figures at auctions or numismatic stores.
As you read, there are valuable quarters that cost a small fortune. Imagine you discover you have one of these valuable quarters in your drawer, or you get it at the market exchange. What would you do in that case?
But, first you need to know what are those valuable quarters that collectors are looking for. Luckily you’re going to find out in this article. That and much more about American Quarters Dollars.
Are quarters valuable?
The answer is yes, there are many quarters with collectible value, which are traded in numismatic stores. Most valuable quarter coins you’re hardly going to find in store change. It’s a long shot, but it could happen.
On the other hand, if you had a grandfather or an uncle who collected coins, the chances of having one of these pieces increase. The valuable coras, as I told you they are called in Latin America, are some very specific ones that we will be reviewing in this article.
These are the most valuable quarters by type
Pay attention to the list ahead, as some of these quarters can be life-changing if you have them. Some of them will be almost impossible for you to have in your possession. However, I won’t be the one to deny you the joy of searching for them and dreaming of the prize.
First Quarter Dollars (Draped Bust)
The first 25-cent coins are known as the Draped Bust. The authorization to mint them dates from 1792. However, it would take four years for their production and circulation to begin. Between 1796 and 1807, two types of these coins were produced:
25 Cents (Draped Bust) with Small Eagle 1796
The 1796 Draped Bust quarters were the first 25 centavo coins minted. The bibliography on coin collecting states that just over 6,000 were minted.
The obverse features a bust of LIBERTY facing right. It bears this inscription above. On the sides 12 stars and below the year of mintage, 1792. On the reverse a relatively small eagle perched on a cloud, and wrapped in a wreath tied with a ribbon.
According to specialists, most of the quarters minted this year may have survived to the present day. Of course, in varying degrees of preservation. These coins were minted in silver (89.2%) and copper (10.8%).
A valuable 1792 Cora in acceptable condition is worth more than $15,000. However, if you wanted to buy one in MS-63 quality be prepared to pay $125,000 or more.
25 Cents (Draped Bust) with Heraldic Eagle
The other Draped Bust quarters, easily identified by the heraldic eagle on the reverse, were minted in 1804, 1805, 1806 and 1807. Of all these years the most expensive are the 1804 25 cents.
As you may have noticed, the reverse of the 1804 quarter changed dramatically. The previous design was replaced by one depicting the Great Seal of the United States of America. In addition, the inscription “25 C” was added underneath, corresponding to the face value of the coin.
Again this year a ridiculously low number of quarters were minted, hence they are scarce and very valuable. The most deteriorated one you can find is worth $2500. As the quality improves the price goes up to $175,000.
Coins 25 centavos Capped Bust (Capped Bust)
The Covered Bust design is introduced earlier on half dollar coins, as early as 1807, but did not reach quarters until 1815. The mintage was quite irregular, and collectors differentiate between two types of coins.
Covered Bust Quarters (large size) with motto
The earliest Capped Bust coins are known as the large size variants. These pieces with a diameter of 27.5 mm and an approximate weight of 6.74 grams, were minted primarily in Philadelphia, beginning in 1815.
On the obverse we have the representation of liberty looking to the left, with a cap bearing a ribbon with the word LIBERTY. Surrounding the bust are 13 stars, one for each original state of the Union, and below the year of mintage. On the reverse we can find a perched eagle holding three arrows and an olive branch. In addition, the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be read.
Large Capped Bust quarters were minted in a fairly wide date range. The scarcest years fall between 1823 and 1827. An 1823 quarter can fetch about $300,000 on the numismatic market.
Quarters Bust Covered (small size) without motto
The 25 centavos Bust Covered coin has a second stage, which goes from 1831 to 1838. In this period the quarters are minted in a smaller format, they have the same weight, but the diameter is 24.3 mm.
The reduction in size results in a slight modification of the reverse design. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” disappears, but the rest of the elements remain as they are.
Collectors who want to get their hands on these pieces have more options to get them than with their predecessors. Quarter dollar mintages in these years were stable, and on the order of hundreds of thousands of coins.
Just to give an example, in 2015 an 1831 25 cent coin was auctioned at Heritage Auction for a ridiculous $117,500.00 US dollars.
Liberty Seated (Liberty Seated) Quarters
Then, in 1838, the design of the quarters changed again. The name given to the valuable quarters at this stage is Liberty Seated Quarters. The obverse depicts Liberty (LIBERTY) in full body, seated and holding a shield. The reverse retains the Capped Bust eagle, but the 25 C is changed to “QUAR DOL”.
Specialists and collectors recognize that there are at least 6 variants of valuable quarters at this stage. However, ultimately these 6 variants can be grouped into two sets, which I present to you below:
Libertad Seated 25 cents coin with no motto
The first group is composed of the Seated Liberty quarters without reverse motto, minted from 1838 to 1865. There are at least four variants of these coins:
To top it off, quarters were struck at both the Philadelphia and New Orleans mints during these years. Thus, we have a fairly wide range of coins that are slightly different from each other.
According to the Red Book of Coins, the most valuable quarter of the period is a piece auctioned in 2008 at Heritage Auction for $80,500. Total insanity at that price.
Liberty Seated quarter with motto
The second group of valuable Liberty Seated quarters is composed of the pieces that do bear a reverse motto. The coins in this group were minted between 1866 and 1891. Incidentally, two variants can be identified within the set:
As you may have guessed, the second variant is scarcer. Therefore, it reaches higher values in the numismatic market.
This valuable quarter dollar sold on August 24 for $336,000.00 at Heritage Auction. It is possible that, if this coin is auctioned again, it will far exceed that price, and hold the record for the most expensive Liberty Seated Quarter dollar with motto.
The next generation of valuable quarters are known as “Barber” quarters. This name comes from the creator of the design Charles E. Barber. The design change is radical, if we compare these specimens to those of previous years.
On the obverse, the full body representation of Miss Liberty is replaced by a head with a Phrygian cap and laurel wreath. This motif is similar to that of the 10 centavos and 50 centavos coins of the time. On the other hand, the reverse features a heraldic eagle holding arrows and olive trees. This image is an adaptation of the Great Seal of the United States.
NOTE: The heraldic eagle is similar to the one currently found on $1 bills.
Barber quarters are in high demand by collectors. There are many specimens available that can be purchased for less than $100. However, some very specific rare coras can be worth much more. For example, the 1892 coin you saw earlier was sold in September 2022 for $35,250.00 at Legend Rare Coin Auctions.
Standing Liberty Quarter Coins
In 1916 the quarters were redesigned by Hermon A. MacNeil. This model was minted continuously until 1930. There are two variants or types of Liberty of Foot quarters.
The obverse depicts liberty again in full body, now standing. In the original design of the 1916 quarter, liberty has a bare breast, which was quickly corrected. It appears that the Puritanism of the time acted immediately.
On the reverse the heraldic bird now becomes an eagle flying to the right. The first quarters have 13 stars, 7 of them on the left and 6 on the right. When the redesign I mentioned to you earlier is done, the eagle moves to a more centered position, and 3 of the stars are below the bird.
This reverse design on quarters remains in place until 1930.
Of the first type of Quarters Dollars Barbers only 52 thousand pieces were minted. You can imagine that they are rarer and more coveted, so a specimen in MS63 quality and above has a value of over 15 thousand dollars. Barber quarters from 2017 and up are more common, and you get relatively affordable prices, under $1,000.
Washington quarters from 1932 to present day
The last redesign of the valuable quarters came in 1932, commemorating the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The Washington quarters are by far the ones that have remained unchanged the longest. Although, there was a very big and important one.
The bust of Whasington on the obverse of the 25-cent coin is the work of John Flanagan. He was inspired by a bust that the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon made in 1786. Although Liberty is not depicted, the concept is maintained in the form of a Legend. The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”, which had disappeared in the previous design, returns.
The reverse of the crowns with Washington has the eagle perched with wings spread over an arrow club. It also includes an olive wreath and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
Washington quarters were minted in silver from 1932 to 1964, except in 1933. Starting in 1965, silver was replaced by another metal alloy that lasts to this day. This was the big change I told you about earlier. Silver quarters are still produced, but only in PROOF quality for collectors.
Some silver quarters can fetch higher prices. The known record is held by a 1932 Washington quarter dollar. This Coin was sold at Heritage Auction for $40,250.00 in 2012.
On the other hand, there is a large availability of post-1965 quarters. In the United States it is possible to find specimens circulating from almost every year, so their real value almost never exceeds their face value. It is only when specimens with errors appear that they gain some value for collectors.
Other collectible quarter series
I would venture to say that one of the denominations of U.S. coins that offers the most variety to collectors are the quarters. I am not referring to the year and mint variants of the old coins. I am alluding to the number of different designs that have been minted since 1999 under different programs promoted by the U.S. Mint.
Here are some of the most interesting and valuable series of quarters.
Quarters of the 50 States of the Union (1999-2008)
In 1999, the U.S. Mint launched a program that lasted until 2008 to mint special quarters for each of the 50 states. Coins were created and issued at the rate of 5 new designs per year, and minted in both silver and clad copper.
The reception from the public and collectors was so good that the experience was repeated in other programs that followed. If you are interested in having your own collection of this type, there is still time to order a Quarters 50 States folder with the complete set of coins from Amazon.
District of Columbia and U.S. Territories (2009)
Upon completion of the above program, the Mint released in 2009 the series it titled “Washington DC and U.S. Territories Quarters.” I’d explain what this set of quarters is all about, but its name speaks for itself.
As with the previous program, you can buy PROOF silver and copper clad quarters. This collection can be assembled by collecting or buying the 6 quarters that compose it.
American Beauties quarters (2010-2021)
Then, in 2010, the U.S. Congress approved the issuance of commemorative quarters in honor of the country’s beautiful national parks. The list of coins totals 56 different quarters, minted through 2021.
Under the “America the Beautiful” program, both copper clad and silver coins were released. Silver pieces tend to be more expensive, but are still in high demand by many collectors. The successive success of the collectible quarter series has conditioned the emergence of new programs.
American Woman Quarters coin series
The Mint is currently issuing a series of quarters dedicated to prominent women under the American Woman Quarters program. The first 5 coins of the program are already in circulation, and we know the designs of the issues that will be issued in 2023.
This beautiful series of coins aims to balance the under-representation of women in American numismatic history. An affirmative action that has undoubtedly been very well received by collectors and society in general.
25 cents gold coin
In 2016, a 25-cent gold quarter coin was approved and minted, commemorating the centennial of the Standing Liberty (Standing Liberty design). This gold quarter reproduces the original 1916 design, where Liberty is shown showing her left breast.
This 25 cent piece is a feast for the eyes. The attention to detail is perfect. If we add that it is a coin struck in gold metal law .999 then we have nothing more to talk about. It perfectly justifies its price over $2,000.
How do I know if I have a valuable quarter?
To find out if the quarter you have is valuable you can consult a numismatic dealer in your city. You can also follow the steps in the guide to know the value of old coins that I published some time ago.
Anyway, I’m not going to evade the subject, so I’ll leave you some clues to know if you have a valuable cora in your hands.
The first step is always to differentiate between pre-1965 coins and post-1965 Washington quarters. Before 1965 they were all silver quarters. Therefore, those pieces are already somewhat valuable, just because of the metal.
The second step is to recognize the details of the quarter dollar: year, mint, variant and if it has any minting errors. If you happen to have a specimen with errors on the edge, the rim or any of the other parts of the coin, you may very well have a valuable coin in your hands.
You can start your collection of quarters
Now that you know most of the quarters that exist, their variants and how much they are worth, you have everything it takes to start your own collection. I assure you that for collectors and numismatists, boredom is never an option.
Leave me a comment telling me which of these coins you have or would like to have. You can also tell me which one impressed you the most. I will be glad to read you.
If you are interested in a specific topic related to ancient coins or banknotes, let me know and I will be happy to write about it.
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