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Barber Quarter, 1892-1916 | CoinWeek

1892 Barber Quarter. Image: Heritage Auctions / Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.
1892 Barber Quarter. Image: Heritage Auctions / Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.

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

The Mint Act of 1890 allowed the Treasury Department to change coin designs every 25 years without specific Congressional approval, and the dime, quarter, and half dollar were eligible in 1891.

A contest was held to come up with a new design. Judging the entries were United States Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber and renowned American artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Neither were overly impressed with the submissions. Mint Director Edward Leech deemed the competition a “wretched failure” and assigned Barber with the task of redesigning the three denominations. The resulting designs, first issued in 1892, became known as the Barber type, joining the Gobrecht, Morgan, and later Saint-Gaudens designs as being known by the name of their designer.

The production of Barber coinage commenced on January 2, 1892. As is often the case in the first year of a coin’s release, minor tweaks had to be made for the benefit of the Mint and its customers, merchants, and banks.

As it pertained to the Barber Quarter, the relief of the coin upon release impacted people’s ability to stack the coins. To adjust, Barber revised the reverse hub, slightly lowering the relief.

The Barber Quarter was created at the same time as the introduction of a new process in the manufacture of coins. A transfer lathe copied the elements of a larger electroplated wax and gum model to a master hub the size of the actual coin. This allowed for greater precision, thus more detail and more design elements. Barber apparently took advantage of the new technology, and ironically was criticized for creating a cluttered design. Nevertheless, it proved to be more durable in circulation than the Hermon MacNeil Standing Liberty Quarter design that followed in 1916.

How Much Are Barber Quarters Worth?

Prices for Barber Quarters are moderate up to Gem grades – though they remain so even at that grade for many dates. New Orleans and San Francisco branch mint coins generally have slight premiums over Denver and Philadelphia issues. Quarters were minted at New Orleans through 1909, with examples of that date often selling for higher prices. Denver started minting Barber Quarters in 1906, continuing through the end of the series. Key dates are 1896-S, 1901-S, and 1913-S. Mint State and Gem coins are scarce to rare, more so than dimes and half dollar of the same design, and are often found with bagmarks and other abrasions. Prooflike business strikes have been certified along with Cameo and Deep Cameo/Ultra Cameo Proofs. Proof coins are moderately and fairly evenly priced, increasing as Gem and finer.

Barber Quarter Date-by-Date Analysis by CoinWeek Notes

Extened Coverage of the Barber Quarter on CoinWeek

Classic U.S. Coins for Less Than $500 Each: Barber Quarters

Classic U.S. coin expert and CoinWeek contributor Greg Reynolds has written Barber Quarter guides of his own for type coin collectors or collectors on a budget.

Greg also analyzes specific high-quality Barber Quarter specimens that came up for auction.

From the Dark Corner: An "Authenticated" Counterfeit 1899 DDR Barber Quarter

Jack D. Young of the EAC and the “Dark Side” Facebook group has written a couple of articles on counterfeit 1899 and 1901-S Barber Quarters for his CoinWeek column.

NGC contributes an article detecting counterfeit Barber Quarters as well – this one being an 1896-S.

Design

Obverse:

The right-facing Liberty portrait is similar to George Morgan’s on the dollar, but with more of the hair hidden under a Liberty cap. Surrounding the cap is a laurel wreath, tied by a bow at the back. A small band at the front, under the wreath, displays the word LIBERTY. Inside the denticulated rim are the motto IN GOD WE TRUST at the top and the date at the bottom, with six-pointed stars connecting the two: six to the left and seven to the right. Chief Engraver Barber’s initial “B” is inscribed in the truncation of Liberty’s neck above the beginning of the date.

Reverse:

The reverse displays a somewhat awkwardly proportioned eagle with outstretched wings and legs, the dexter claw (viewer’s left) clutching an olive branch and the sinister a bundle of arrows. The eagle holds in its beak a ribbon displaying the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The rim is denticulated and around the periphery are the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top and the denomination QUARTER DOLLAR at the bottom. Thirteen five-pointed stars fill the field above the eagle below STATES OF. Coins were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Denver; O, S, and D mintmarks are below the eagle and above the space between QUARTER and DOLLAR.

Edge:

The edge of the Barber Quarter, like all silver coinage of the quarter dollar denomination, is reeded.

Coin Specifications

Barber Quarters
Years of Issue: 1892-1916
Mintage (Circulation): High: 12,624,000 (1899); Low: 40,000 (1913-S)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,245 (1892); Low 380 (1914)
Alloy: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 6.25 g
Diameter: 24.30 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Charles E. Barber
REV Designer: Charles E. Barber

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of Barber Silver  Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Feigenbaum, David. The Complete Guide to Barber Quarters. DLRC Press.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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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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