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HomeUS Coins1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof : A Collector's Guide

1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1776-1976 Bicentennial Quarter with Jack Ahr’s Drummer Boy (actually a man) reverse. Image: Adobe Stock.
1776-1976 Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof with Jack Ahr’s Drummer Boy (actually a man) reverse—image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof is one of five 1976 Bicentennial Quarters the United States Mint struck in 1975 and ’76 as part of the official celebration of the nation’s 200th birthday. Other quarters featuring the Jack AhrDrummer Boy” reverse and the 1776-1976 dual date are the 1976 (Philadelphia) and 1976-D (Denver) coins struck and issued into circulation, and the 1976-S silver-clad Proof and Uncirculated coins sold as part of special Bicentennial three-coin Proof and Uncirculated sets.

Successful Collector Lobbying Leads to Bicentennial Coins

Shortly before the nation’s 200th birthday, the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission’s Coins and Medals Advisory Panel, formed in 1970, proposed that the U.S. Mint produce commemorative coins to mark the occasion. At first, this idea was rejected by the Treasury Department, which had opposed issuing commemorative coinage after a series of commemorative coin bills passed in the 1930s, led to a glut of unsold coins, many of which were returned to the Mint for melting.

Another reason for the Mint’s recommendations against coins with special commemorative designs was that that public might not recognize the pieces as the regular issues of that year and might hoard them, causing a shortage of circulating coins–a situation the Mint had just dealt with 10 years prior. These concerns might have been well-founded in an earlier period without mass media or when the Mint produced coins in lower numbers, but given the wall-to-wall coverage of the American Bicentennial and the vast array of commemorative collectibles issued, the Mint and the Treasury had little worry about.

President Richard M. Nixon
President Richard M. Nixon

Pushing for the issuance of commemorative coins and medals was the numismatic community, which not only strongly advocated for coins but also called for the issuing of gold coins as well. In November 1972, Treasury officials agreed to add the date 1776 to 1976’s coinage but would not change the coinage in any way to commemorate the Bicentennial. Collectors successfully lobbied Congress to authorized commemorative designs and on October 18, 1973, two days before President Richard M. Nixon doomed his Presidency with the “Saturday Night Massacre”, Senate bill S. 1141 was signed into law as Public Law 93-127 (PDF link). The law required that the Mint change the designs and inscriptions of the quarter, half dollar, and dollar, and strike coins with designs “emblematic of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution.” On December 26, 1974, the law was amended to allow for the minting of silver-clad Bicentennial coinage for the collector market.

To determine the designs of the nation’s Bicentennial coinage, the Treasury Department held a design competition starting on October 23, 1973. Five judges were appointed to select winners from a nationwide competition. The winners each received $5,000 USD for their winning entries. The public got their first view of the new coin designs on March 7, 1974, when Mint Director Mary Brooks appearing on NBC’s Today show to unveil the winning designs.

Bicentennial Quarter Design Was a Hit

Graphic designer Jack L. Ahr’s “Drummer Boy” design for the Washington Quarter is perhaps the best known design of all three that were released. It depicts a Revolutionary War drummer and was the only Bicentennial design to illustrate a human figure. Not only that, but the image of a patriot in a tricorn hat drumming along to a patriotic tune was a familiar site across the nation as towns small and large held parade’s for the nation’s birthday. Director Brooks was enthusiastic about Ahr’s design, saying, “the quarter, in particular, has a most romantic history. It gets me thinking of swashbuckling pirates, chests full of Spanish ‘pieces of eight’ and the colorful expression ‘two bits.’”

How Was the 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof Sold?

1976 United States Proof Set. Image: APMEX / CoinWeek.
1976 United States Proof Set. Image: APMEX / CoinWeek.

The Bicentennial coins proved to be wildly popular with collectors, and the Mint reported sales of 2,845,450 Proof Sets in 1975 and 4,149,730 Proof Sets in 1976. Both the 1975 and 1976 Proof Sets included each of the three Bicentennial coins, each carrying the dual date 1776-1976. Each of these sets contained a face value of $1.91 in coins and had an issue price of $7.00 ($38.42 in 2024 inflation-adjusted dollars).

In 1977, the United States Mint resumed production of the Washington Quarter with its regular design. More than a billion Bicentennial quarters circulated, much in the same way that 50 State Quarters and America the Beautiful Quarters circulate today. Over time, the number of these coins in circulation lessened. As for the clad Proof, millions of Proof Sets containing them have passed from collector to collector in the nearly 50 years since their issue. A percentage of the sets have been cracked open, and some of the coins have been placed into circulation. These impaired Proofs are rarely encountered in change, but they do pop up from time to time.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Registry Set competition has had an outsized influence on the value of the 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof, as the coin–common in every respect–was conditionally rare for a short period in the grade of PCGS PR70DCAM (the coin remains elusive in NGC PF70UCAM, and CACG population data indicates that that firm has yet to grade any examples of the issue).

From 2007 to 2010, two examples connected to highly ranked Registry Sets belonging to collectors Daniel D. Biddle and Michael Fuller came to auction. The Fuller coin (#07733842) sold first and brought $690 at a December 4, 2007 Heritage sale. Two years later, that coin was sold again, bringing $546.25.

When both sales occurred, the reported PR70DCAM population stood at 63 coins (2007) and 65 (2009). On July 11, 2010, the Biddle coin sold for the still-standing record price of $920. At the time of this sale, the PCGS population of PR70 coins had increased to 69 examples. Auction prices for this issue gradually declined from 2010 to 2015, with dozens of examples selling at GreatCollections, Heritage, and Stack’s Bowers. The first auction results of a Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof at the coin’s current price level occurred in 2016.

As of April 22, 2024, the PCGS population has increased to 826 pieces and will likely hit 1,000 coins within the next few years. The readily available supply of 1975 and 1976 Clad Proof Sets at prices around $12 and below will ensure this happens.

The 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter Clad Proof in PCGS PR70DCAM is now primarily a coin sold to collectors on eBay for modest sums (between $120 and $150). In April 2024, a large eBay seller sold multiple examples in PCGS PR70DCAM using a photo of PCGS #27515175. These coins sold for a range of prices from $77 to $115.50.

Top Population: PCGS PR70DCAM (826, 4/2024). NGC PF70UCAM (12, 4/2024). CAC None Graded (0, 4/2024).

  • PCGS PR70DCAM #27515175: eBay, April 21, 2024 – $115.50.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #47318998: eBay, April 19, 2024 – $150.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #47319000: eBay, April 4, 2024 – $148.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #44374788: eBay, April 4, 2024 – $160.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #47318999: eBay, March 19, 2024 – $149.
  • PCGS PR70DCAM #47319002: eBay, March 27, 2024 – $149.99.

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Design

Obverse:

John Flanagan’s obverse design features a left-facing portrait of President and Founding Father George Washington based on the Jean-Antoine Houdon bust of 1786. LIBERTY wraps around the top of the coin above Washington’s hair. The dual date 1776-1976 wraps around the bottom, below Washington’s bust truncation. To the left of Washington is the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST; to the right is the mintmark D.

Reverse:

Jack Ahr’s colonial drummer occupies most of the reverse, with a small “victory torch” surrounded by 13 five-pointed stars on the left. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA wraps clockwise around the top half of the quarter, while cradled counterclockwise at the bottom is the denomination QUARTER DOLLAR. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is crammed between the torch and the drummer’s right arm.

Edge:

Like all Washington quarters, the edge of the 1976-S Bicentennial Washington Quarter Clad Proof is reeded.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1976
Denomination: Quarter Dollar (USD)
Mintmark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 7,059,099
Alloy: Outer: 75% Copper, 25% Nickel; Inner: 100% Copper
Weight: 5.67 g
Diameter: 24.30 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: John Flanagan
REV Designer: Jack L. Ahr
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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3 COMMENTS

  1. I was wondering I have a Georgia state quarter that is black, I’m trying to figure out what caused coloring and how to identify it, any suggestions?
    Elizabeth

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