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1950 Washington Quarter Proof : History & Value | CoinWeek

1950 Washington Quarter. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1950 Washington Quarter. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

Intended to be a circulating commemorative coin honoring the bicentennial of the birth of America’s first president, the Washington quarter, as originally designed, was struck from 1932 to 1998 – save for a two-year run in 1975 and ’76 when the coin’s reverse was swapped out for the “Drummer Boy” design of Jack Ahr.

The design was the work of sculptor John Flanagan, whose design was favored by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon despite not being the consensus pick of the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), which held a public competition to find a worthy design for the occasion. Mellon chose Flanagan’s design over the design of artist Laura Gardin Fraser, in what many in the numismatic community feel was an unjust decision. The American Women quarters struck from 2022 to 2025 bear the Fraser design.

At the time of the Washington quarter’s 1932 debut, the United States Mint struck coins only for circulation, having discontinued its Proof program in 1916, citing poor demand. The Mint reversed course on the Proof issue in 1936 and saw demand increase from 3,837 sets in 1936 to 21,120 in 1942 when Proof coinage was again suspended due to the outbreak of World War II. The 1942 Proof issues were a hodgepodge of early 20th-century coins (the Buffalo nickel, the Mercury dime, and the Walking Liberty half dollar) and more modern designs (the Jefferson nickel and the Washington quarter). The Lincoln cent, then baring the Wheat reverse, was first issued before all of these designs and stood as the avant garde of the modern style of American coins – one that valorized Presidential figures and statesmen over Liberty, personified as an American goddess.

A New Era of American Numismatics

The 1950 Proof Set differed from the 1936-42 sets in that each issue represented the modern style. It contained a Lincoln cent, a Jefferson nickel, a Roosevelt dime, a Washington quarter, and a Franklin half dollar. Compositionally, only the 1950 Jefferson Nickel is struck from the same metallic content today as the coins of 1950. The Lincoln cent is no longer struck in bronze; the 90% silver coins are now struck in copper-nickel clad.

The 1950 Proof Set was also the first set sold only as a set. Before, collectors could purchase individual coins or sets for a small surcharge plus postage. The 1950 Proof coins, with their face value of 91¢, were sold as a set with an issue price of $2.10 ($27.04 adjusted for inflation).

Demand for the coins was strong, and the United States Mint sold 51,386 sets. This is more than the total number of all sets that the Mint produced and sold in 1940, 1941, and 1942. At the time of the set’s release, this mintage would have been considered astronomical and overproduced, but by the end of the decade, the Mint would sell well over a million Proof sets. The coin hobby in the United States was ready to hit on all cylinders, and the 1950 Proof Set set the stage for a massive explosion in the popularity of collecting modern coins.

What Is a 1950 Washington Quarter Proof Coin Worth?

There is no single correct price for a 1950 Washington quarter in Proof.

Problem-free raw example can trade for as little as $33 and as much as $68, depending on the eye appeal of the coin, the quality of photography, and the professionalism of the listing.

As is the case with certified coins, which we will go into detail about in a moment, collectors pay a premium price for raw coins of this issue in instances where the coin has outstanding eye appeal.

A coin with clear fields, no fingerprints, and no evidence of mishandling–if properly photographed and listed on eBay–will sell for about as much money as a certified coin in grades up to Proof 66.

Our survey of recent eBay listings shows a price range of between $33 and $68 for raw 1950 Proof Washington quarters. This is remarkable when you consider that the going rate for Proofs of this issue graded Proof 64 to Proof 66 aligns almost exactly with this number. In other words, the market has a pretty decent grading eye and will pay premium money, up to a point, for coins even if they do not have an “official” grade as applied by one of the three major grading services.

Certified examples follow their own logic.

In Proof 65, a CAC-, NGC-, or PCGS-certified coin is likely to bring between $50 and $60 in an online auction, less for unattractively toned examples. In Proof 66, the value steps up to $60 to $80, while Proof 67s sell for $100 and up. A February 2018 Heritage sale realized a fantastical sum of $660 for a PCGS PR67. The premium paid for this piece is the result of a bidding war over a coin that is likely (in the minds of the bidders) to upgrade to the next grade, or better. This example was an attractive and original piece in a PCGS Old Green Holder.

In Proof 68, the 1950 Washington quarter in Proof sells for about $550 to $600. Some examples with spectacular toning can often time carry what appears to be illogical premiums. It’s very difficult to assign a value to a snowflake,and collectors who choose to participate in this sophisticated niche of the market are advised to do their due diligence before making a purchasing decision.

Cameos and Deep/Ultra Cameos are worth many times more than their brilliant counterparts. A Proof 65 in Cameo is worth double the price of a brilliant Proof 67, while a Cameo in 66 commands a price between $300 and $350.

Auction records for Proof 67 Cameo examples vary wildly. Some of this is due to the quality, or thickness, of the cameo frost on the coin’s devices. The low end of the market for Proof 67 Cameos yields $700 to $800 apiece, while better examples may realize thousands of dollars, as evidenced by the $3,360 that the Michael Fuller Collection specimen brought in a February 2018 Heritage Auctions sale.

In Deep/Ultra Cameo, in 65, expect to pay between $2,500 and $2,800. In grades beyond 65, public auction records are scarce, but examples sell for $3,000 and above at 66, and one would assume that the price for 67s and 68s are well into the low five figures.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Through April 2024, NGC reports 3,090 grading events of the 1950 Washington quarter in Proof. 6.89% of this total earned the Cameo designation, while a minuscule total of 12 grading events earned Ultra Cameo. The typical grade for a submitted coin was in the Proof 65 to Proof 67 range, this is a much lower range on the Sheldon scale than Proof issues struck from 1953 forward. NGC has certified 949 examples in Proof 67, 182 examples in Proof 68, and just six examples in Proof 69.

Through April 2024, PCGS reports 3,131 grading events of the 1950 Washington quarter in Proof. From that pool, PCGS has attributed their Cameo designation to 4.24% of coins submitted, while just 11 have earned the company’s Deep Cameo attribution. PCGS’ grade distribution mirrors that of NGC.

Combining the populations of coins submitted to the two grading services yields a certified population of approximately 12.1% of the total mintage. It is certainly reasonable to assume that the census for 1950 Washington quarter Proofs has room to expand, but when one considers the size of the highly profitable 1950 half dollar is only double this size, it is safe to assume that dramatic increases in the coin’s upper range populations are simply unlikely given the vintage and popularity of the coin.

Top Population: PCGS PR68DCAM (2, 4/2024), NGC PF68UC (2, 4/2024), and CAC PR67 (2:1 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS PR69 #43830700: GreatCollections, May 22, 2022, Lot 1162103 – View. Attractive crescent rainbow toning on both sides.
  • PCGS PR68DCAM CMQ #2864714: Stack’s Bowers, June 13, 2023, Lot 2015 – $22,800; Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4105 – $18,000 Reserve Not Met.
  • PCGS PR68DCAM #42808900: Heritage Auctions, January 13, 2022, Lot 3413 – $31,200.
  • NGC PF68UCAM: Stack’s Bowers, June 2012, Lot 2648 – $20,000 Reserve Not Met. Pop one, none finer when offered. Stack’s Bowers, March 13, 2013, Lot 2060 – $10,500 Reserver Not MetPop one, none finer when offered.

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Design

Obverse:

John Flanagan’s obverse design features a left-facing portrait of George Washington based on the Jean-Antoine Houdon bust of 1786. LIBERTY wraps around the top of the coin, above Washington’s hair. The date 1950 wraps around the bottom, below Washington’s bust truncation. To the left of Washington is the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

Reverse:

A heraldic eagle, rendered in Art Deco, style is perched atop a sheaf of arrows. The arrows and the eagle’s head are facing left. Two sprays of olive branches form a “U” shape wrapping around the bottom of the eagle. Wrapping around the top of the coin is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below that, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Wrapping around the bottom of the coin, the denomination QUARTER DOLLAR is inscribed.

Edge:

The edge of the 1964 Washington quarter Proof, like all Washington quarters, is reeded.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States
Year Of Issue: 1950
Denomination: Quarter Dollar (25 Cents USD)
Mint Mark: N/A (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 51,386
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 6.25 g
Diameter: 24.3 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: John Flanagan
REV Designer: John Flanagan
Quality: Proof

 

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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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