Twenty Cents and Quarters

Obverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar
Reverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar

Ron Guth: The Twenty-Cent Piece was an unusual denomination struck between 1875 and 1878. Because the size of the coin and the design elements were so similar to those on the Quarter Dollar, these coins caused a lot of confusion with the general public (similar to the situation that occurred over 100 years later with the Susan B. Anthony Dollar). For this reason, Twenty Cent Pieces were struck for circulation only in 1875 and 1876. In 1877 and 1878, they were available only as Proofs.

The first United States Quarter Dollars were struck in 1796, despite having been authorized in 1792. Demand for the denomination was low - in 1796, only 6,146 Quarter Dollars were struck, then no more were struck until 1804, when the mintage was again tiny. The Draped Bust design was used from 1796 to 1807, with a change in the reverse design beginning in 1804. No Quarter Dollars were struck from 1808-1814. Minting of the denomination resumed in 1815, with the introduction of the Capped Bust design. In 1831, the diameter of the Quarter Dollars was reduced and standardized through the use of a close collar (a collar that restricted the outward flow of metal when the blank planchets were struck).

The Seated Liberty design debuted in mid-1838 and lasted until 1891. From 1853 to 1855, arrowheads were placed on either side of the date to signify a reduction in the weight of the coin. In 1866, the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" was added to the reverse of the Quarter Dollar. From 1873 to 1874, arrowheads reappeared on the obverse, this time to signify the adoption of the metric system by Mint officials.

In 1892, Charles Barber created a new design using a head of Liberty wearing a freedman's cap. This became known as the Barber type, one of the few American types that took the name of the designer, rather than the name of the main design elements (other notable examples are the Gobrecht and Morgan Silver Dollars).

The Standing Liberty design appeared in 1916, featuring a classic figure in a long, flowing dress, carrying a shield in one hand and an olive branch in the other. In 1916 and 1917, Liberty appeared bare-breasted; from 1917 to 1930, she was given cover-up of chain mail.

A special Quarter Dollar appeared in 1932, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. The Washington type became so popular that it replaced the Standing Liberty design, even though the latter design had not been in place for the statutory 25 year minimum. In 1965, a "sandwich" alloy of copper-nickel layers around a pure copper core replaced the old 90% silver alloy. In 1976, a special "Drummer Boy" reverse was created for the bicentennial of American independence. In 1999, the Mint began an ambitious, ten year program intended to produce a unique design for each of the 50 States, with five new designs appearing each year. The 50 States Quarters program is credited with creating millions of new coin collectors.

Rarities in the Quarter Dollar denomination include:
1822 25 over 50
1827 Original
1827 Restrike
1842 Small Date
1866 No Motto
1873-CC No Arrows
1916 Standing Liberty