As the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth in 1932 drew closer, the United States Mint began preparing the Nation’s numismatic arena. With the Act of March 4, 1931, the US Senate decreed that the portrait of George Washington “shall appear on the obverse, with appropriate devices on the reverse” (U.S. Mint Report, 1932, pg. 134).
Production started in early 1932 at all three main US Mints in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Despite whatever grand ambitions the Mint may have had for the launch of the Washington quarter, the Great Depression was waging. The Great Depression was, to this day, the worst economic disaster that has hit the US economy. As such, demand for coinage decreased by over 90%. In fact, no half dollars or silver dollars were struck from 1931 to 1933, and, if 1932 had not been the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birthday, no quarters would have been struck in any of those years, either. But they were struck in 1932. Additionally, many pieces were stored in the US Treasury’s vaults.
Adjusting, the Mint struck a combined total of 6,248,800 pieces at all three mints despite no real demand for the coin. While the Philadelphia facility is responsible for the bulk of the production, the mint in San Francisco struck only 408,000 pieces. This extraordinarily low mintage makes the 1932-S the lowest mintage of the entire series, and with a mintage of 436,800, the 1932-D is a close second. These two circulation strike issuances are the only in the entire series with a mintage below one million pieces and both are considered the most important and rarest key date coins of the series.
What is the 1932-S Washington Quarter Worth?
PCGS estimates that the 1932-S only has a survival rate of approximately 10%, with roughly 40,000 pieces estimated to exist in all grades. However, since most were produced as specialized collectors’ items, many pieces were saved by the numismatic community. This has resulted in a rather lopsided survival rate, and it is thought that nearly 30% of remaining examples are in MS-60 or better. Due to demand, true Gem examples (MS-65 or better) are quite difficult for a collector to acquire. While the 1932-S has a smaller mintage than the 1932-D, it is slightly more common in Gem Mint State and PCGS has certified 215 of the 1932-S and only 104 examples of the 1932-D in MS-65 to -66. There are no certified examples in higher grades.
True low-grade examples are almost as rare as the high-grade specimens, and when certified pieces from P-1 to G-4 can be found, they are generally sold for between $50 to $80. Mid-grade examples from VF to XF can be found at most reputable dealers for between $100 to $200. Coins surviving in low Mint State (MS 60 to 62) have a similar value and sell for $300 to $400. Prices increase significantly in higher Mint State grades (MS-64 to -66). Examples in these high grades can sell for as little as $800 or as much as $5,000. Truly Gem examples in MS-66 sell for much higher prices. The auction record is held by a piece graded MS-66 with a green CAC verification sticker that sold in a David Lawrence Rare Coins March 2020 auction, for $45,500.
Designed by John Flanagan, the obverse of the 1932-S Washington quarter is based on a bust of the general created by the neoclassical French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. However, Flanagan’s design differs from the original bust in several ways, such as a slightly different head shape and several curls of hair that are not on the bust; for comparison, the bust can be viewed at the late president’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Under the left-facing bust’s chin is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The legend LIBERTY runs along the top of the coin’s field and the date 1932 below. In small letters, Flanagan’s initials “JF” can be found above the “2” in 1932 at the base of the bust.
Unlike the obverse, there were no restrictions placed on the candidate sculptors when designing the Washington quarter reverse. Flanagan’s reverse is dominated by a heraldic eagle with outstretched wings and a left-facing head. The eagle is perched on a neat bundle of arrows with two intertwined olive branches below and the “S” mintmark centered between the two olive branch stems. Above the eagle can be read the two main inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. Finally, at six o’clock on the design is the denomination written out as QUARTER DOLLAR.
The edge of the 1932-S Washington quarter is reeded.
Born in New Jersey in 1865, John Flanagan lived in New York for most of his life. He began working with Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1884 at the age of 20 and quickly became a well-known sculptor and medallic artist in his own right. Saint-Gaudens made introductions for Flanagan at the United States Mint. While the Washington quarter was his sole numismatic design, Flanagan designed numerous famous medals and sculptures, including the official medal of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the official Verdun medal gifted to France by the United States Government, and the 1924 bust of Saint-Gaudens. Flanagan was also a member of the American Numismatic Society (ANS).
|Year Of Issue:
|S (San Francisco)
|90% Silver, 10% Copper