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Barber Quarters For Sale

History Barber Quarters

The Barber quarter, once know as the “Liberty Head Quarter”, was minted from 1892 to 1916.  In 1887, Mint Director James P. Kimball noted in his annual report the “inferiority of our coinage” compared to other advanced nations and that in his opinion, the coinage of the U.S. was out of date and should be changed.  At the request of Kimball, Senator Justin S. Morill introduced a bill authorizing the Treasury Department to redesign coins without first obtaining the permission of Congress, as long as the current design had been in use for at least 25 years.  The bill passed on September 26, 1890 and the dime, quarter and half dollar were targeted for change.  The decision of who should redesign the coins eventually fell to his successor, Edward O. Leech.   

Ironically, new designs were submitted by Mint engravers throughout the early 1880’s but the only change that occurred was a new nickel designed by Charles E. Barber in 1883.  In 1891, when there was discussion of a public competition for new designs.  Barber reported to Mint director Kimball that there was no one in the country capable in assisting him in preparing original designs.  Augustus Saint-Gaudens confided to Kimball there were only four men in the world competent do to such a redesign:  three were in France and he was the fourth.  It did not matter.  Kimball insisted that rather than going abroad to find the best design talent available, it would be possible to find able designers in America.  Against the advice of Barber, the Treasury Department organized a competition to produce new designs.  A panel of 10 of the leading artist and sculptors of the day were commissioned to judge which would be the best designs for new coinage.  The panel met and instead of discussing the competition, they instead rejected the terms of the competition as proposed by Mint officials on the ground that the preparation time was too short and the compensation woeful.  The Mint director rejected the panels’ suggestions and threw the competition out to the public.  The results were disastrous.  Of the more than 300 drawings submitted, only two received an honorable mention by a smaller judging panel.  It is interesting to note that two of the judges were Barber and Saint-Gaudens.   

When Leech took over as Mint director, he was well aware of the problems his predecessor had experienced.  In order to get new designs into production and avoid another disaster of a competition, he simply directed Barber to draw up new designs.  This is what Barber had wanted all along has he felt as Chief Engraver, he, and he alone was responsible for coin design.  

The result was not much in the way of originality.  That would have to wait for more than another 25 years.  What Barber did was to modify the large head used on the Morgan dollar by adding a Liberty cap and cropping Liberty’s hair shorter in back.  She is also facing the opposite direction of the dollar.  He then placed his initial B on the truncation of the neck.  This was the design used not only on the quarter, but the new dime and the new half dollar as well.  

The reverse of the coin depicts the Great Seal of the United States and shows an eagle with outstretched wings, holding an olive branch with thirteen leaves in its right claw and a shear of 13 arrows in its left.  There is a ribbon with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM being held in the eagle’s beak and 13 stars are in the field.   

The quarter was introduced in 1892 just as the new dime and half dollar were.  After the initial strikes, it was discovered that the coins would not stack properly so the relief and design elements on the reverse were altered leaving us with two types of 1892 quarters.  On type I, the eagles’ wing covers only half of the E in UNITED while in type two, the eagle’s wing covers most of the “E”.  Although Type I is a little more scarce, most publications do not price them separately.  

Collectibility  

General  

Collecting Barber quarters, as well as other Barber coinage, is an interesting challenge as Barber quarters (dimes and halves also) were produced at 4 mints.  The series consists of 74 regular issues, with no significant varieties.  It is a very popular series amongst collectors and can be collected in all grades with the possibility of completing a set in mint state conditions.  A single quarter had significant buying power during its time so most examples were heavily circulated.  A total of 264 million quarters were produced, nearly half the mintage of Barber dimes.  Compare this to the quarter of today where the mintage from each mint for each statehood quarter exceeds this total.  Still, the Barber series warrants serious consideration for collectors and can be an exciting challenge.    

Key/Semi Key Dates

 As with the case with most coins of the time, the San Francisco mint had lower production totals making mint-marked coins “generally” more difficult to find and more expensive.  While there are no rarities such as the 1894-S dime, a complete set can be extremely challenging to complete.  Perhaps the most difficult to obtain will be the 1913-S.  The 1913-S has the distinction of being the lowest mintage regular issue silver coin of the 20th century.  A mere 40,000 of this example were struck.  That’s 12,000 less than the famous 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter.  Interestingly enough though, you may have more luck finding the 1913-S.  It is priced around $1,300 in G4 while a SLQ is priced around $3,500 in G4.   

The second rarest Barber quarter is the 1901-S with a mintage of only 72,664.  This coin is actually more difficult to find than the 1913-S and the price reflects it.  A G4 could cost you $6000 or more.   

The third rarest Barber quarter is the 1896-S with a mintage of only 188,039.  With a mintage more than double the 1901-S, the cost of this rarity is far less with a G4 priced around $700.  

The price of these rarities continues to skyrocket in higher grades as the supply is limited.   

Once you get past the big three, there are about 6 dates that will cost between $40-$80 in average circulated grades.  Beyond that, most average coins will cost $5.00 to $20.00 making most dates and mints attainable.   

As with most sets, you can always put together a year set which will be far less costly than a complete set.   

Errors  

There are no significant errors in the Barber quarter series.    

Proofs  

A total of 17,299 proof Barber quarters were produced.  While proofs are not heavily collected, they, like most proofs are a beautiful example of what the artist had in mind when designing the coin.  An example should be considered for any collection.

Vital Statistics Summary

 Key Coin Info  

 

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