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HomeUS Coins1861 Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar : A Collector's Guide

1861 Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1861 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1861 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Southern secession began on December 20, 1860. Abraham Lincoln’s election victory, carried entirely by voters in the northern states, convinced pro-slavery southerners that the dissolution of the Union was in their political and economic best interests. What drew most of South Carolina’s ire was the anti-slavery movement, an institution which it felt was under direct threat after Lincoln declared that the “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free.” In the South Carolina Declaration of Secession, it was written of the non-slaveholding states, “[They] have assume[d] the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloping the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

Unionists doubled down in their support to hold federal government property located in South Carolina. Despite demands to surrender Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, Lincoln reinforced the base with food and supplies – not guns. Meanwhile, the institutions of the federal government were collapsing as Southern senators and representatives ground Congress to a halt. By early January, Senator Jefferson Davis was threatening Civil War. On January 21, he stood to proclaim his resignation and say, “I rise, Mr. President, for the purpose of announcing to the Senate that… the state of Mississippi… has declared her separation from the United States.”

With three of its four Mints located in Southern states, the United States Mint in Philadelphia tried valiantly to produce coinage at a level sufficient to keep money flowing in circulation. But when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, all bets were off.

Once hostilities started, the branch Mints at Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans were either under Confederate control or under threat of seizure. For the Charlotte and Dahlonega mints, the Civil War would signal the end of their existence. For the New Orleans Mint, coinage would cease until the need arose to strike Morgan dollars there in the late 1870s.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

As a collectible, the 1861 Liberty Seated quarter dollar is a perennial favorite due to its connection to that great conflict. With a mintage of 4,853,600 pieces, the coin is plentiful in all grades through the lower Mint State grades of MS64. Gems are scarce, and Superb Gems are available in small numbers. Depending on the coin’s condition, the 1861 Liberty Seated quarter could be worth between $25 and $25,000.

Top PopulationPCGS MS67+ (2, 3/2024), NGC MS68 (6, 3/2024), and CACG MS67 (4:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • NGC MS68 #4655845-002: Heritage Auctions, January 12, 2023, Lot 3693 – $22,800. Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4088 – View. Pastel rainbow toning. Briggs 6-E.
  • PCGS MS67+ CAC #40273843: As PCGS MS67. “The Oliver Jung Collection,” American Numismatic Rarities, July 23, 2004, Lot 52 – $17,825. “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part V,” Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2021, Lot 4124 – $20,400. Simpson novelty insert. Brown toning along the outside of the coin, lightening in the centers.
  • PCGS MS67 #32544455: Bill Nagle to Eugene Gardner, September 2001. As NGC MS67 #1274048-004. “The Eugene H. Gardner Collection, Part III,” Heritage Auctions, May 2015, Lot 98349. As PCGS MS67 #32544455: Heritage Auctions, September 17, 2015, Lot 3866 – $11,750. Crossed over to PCGS; “The Bender Family Collection, Part I,” Heritage Auctions, August 24, 2022, Lot 3796 – $9,900. Bender Collection on insert. Antique toning with shades of pea green, blue, and apricot. Toning is more pleasing on the reverse.
  • PCGS MS67 #25202584: Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2015, Lot 4027 – $12,925. Nearly brilliant, with isolated pockets of light toning in the centers. Roning spot below O of DOL.
  • NGC MS67 #962577-003: Heritage Auctions, February 15, 2007, Lot 3161 – $13,800. Brilliant. Two tiny hits on Liberty’s right wrist and forearm.
  • PCGS MS67 #10890380: As NGC MS66 #1731142-002. Heritage Auctions, August 13, 2006, Lot 1120 – $6,900. Light goldenrod toning along the periphery. On the reverse, a toning spot below OF in the field. As PCGS MS67 #10890380. Heritage Auctions, November 29, 2006, Lot 632 – $16,100; “The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two,” Heritage Auctions, April 30, 2009, Lot 2341 – $12,650. Now Brilliant (dipped). Tiny tick above 6.
  • PCGS MS66 #50063201 CAC: “The Monument Hill Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 2016, Lot 16216; Stack’s Bowers, March 27, 2024, Lot 5320 – View. Flashy with waves of green and apricot toning on both sides.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1861
Denomination: Quarter Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 4,853,600
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 6.22 g
Diameter: 24.30 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Business Strike


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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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