What Not Online Auctions

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

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

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

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #381


An Ongoing Column by Greg Reynolds …..

The theme here is assembling a set of Barber quarters in Fine to Almost Uncirculated grades without spending as much as $500 on any one coin, with the vast majority of coins grading from VF-35 to AU-55. The 1901-S would have to be excluded, and the 1913-S would probably need to be ignored as well. An 1896-S included would be likely to grade considerably less than Fine-12. A set of Barber quarters that is missing just two coins may certainly be finished with a $500 per coin spending limit.

Generally, if a date is not mentioned herein as a key or as a ‘better date’, an Extremely Fine-40 grade representative could be acquired for less than $350. Most dates in this set may be found in AU-50 or higher grades and bought for much less than $500 each; indeed, Barber quarters of many dates in AU-50 to AU-58 grades may be purchased for less than $200 each!

1892 Barber Quarter PCGS AU53 - Stack's BowersIn the realm of classic U.S. coins, Barber quarters are relatively inexpensive, especially for a series with some 19th-century issues. Collectors who are very concerned about the total cost of a set of Barber quarters may buy Fine-12 to -15 grade representatives of all but the keys for much less than the respective prices and value ranges cited here.

What are Barber Quarters?

Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars were first minted in 1892. All Barber types and Liberty Head nickels were designed by Charles Barber. He also designed many 19th-century patterns, and contributed to the designs of a few commemoratives during the early 20th century.

In each year from 1892 to 1916, Barber quarters were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, which was and still is the primary U.S. Mint. There are San Francisco (‘S’) Mint dates for all these years except 1904, 1906, 1910, 1911 and 1916. The New Orleans (‘O’) Mint struck Barber quarters from 1892 to 1909. Furthermore, Barber quarters were produced at the Denver Mint from 1906 to 1911, and again from 1913 to 1916. Why were quarters not minted in Denver in 1912?

It is interesting that there are no 1904-S quarters, as this is a very important date in the series of Barber half dollars and dimes. While the 1895-O is the scarcest business strike Barber dime, 1895-O quarters are not especially scarce. In March 2017, Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS-graded EF-45 1895-O for $117.50.

It is likely that all 1894-S dimes were struck as Proofs, yet all 1894-S quarters that I recollect are business strikes and are only slightly scarcer than the most common Barber quarters. Just nine 1894-S dimes are currently known.

Philadelphia Mint Barber coins do not have mintmarks. On branch mint Barber quarters, the mintmark is located on the reverse, somewhat below the eagle’s tail and usually very close to the ‘D’ in DOLLAR.

Buy Certified Coins When Practical

When seeking Barber quarters that cost from $200 to $500 each, it is usually a good idea to focus upon coins that are PCGS- or NGC-certified, unless a better grading service is founded in the future. A CAC sticker (CAC bean) on a PCGS or NGC holder indicates that John Albanese found the already certified grade to be consistent with CAC grading criteria. Coins with CAC stickers often sell for significant premiums.

It is not implied here that all certified coins are accurately graded or problem-free. It is extremely unlikely, however, that highly skilled coin doctors have spent much time doctoring circulated Barber quarters that cost less than $500 each.

Uncirculated coins are a different matter. Many have been deliberately modified or accidentally mistreated. A collector on a budget who is seeking to collect Barber quarters ‘by date’ should acquire coins that grade below MS-60. Besides, a $500-per-coin limit requires a few Fine to Very Fine Barber quarters in a set. It is awkward to build a set with many MS-60 to MS-64 grade coins along with several Fine to VF grade coins.

Probably, two to four Barber quarters in the set need to grade less than VF-25 to be acquired for less than $500 each. In other words, the four possible exceptions are the 1896-S, 1897-S, 1909-O and 1914-S. As already stated, the 1901-S must be excluded altogether and the 1913-S might have to be as well. Besides these six, representatives grading above VF-20 of all the other dates in the set may be obtained for less than $500 each in a reasonable amount of time.

Circulated Barber quarters are relatively safe to acquire. Collectors should note, however, that forged mintmarks are often added to Philadelphia Mint coins to produce fakes of the key and semi-key dates.

1895 Barber Quarter NGC MS63Buying PCGS- or NGC-certified coins involves less risk than buying uncertified coins. Most collectors of classic U.S. coins that cost more than $250 each will consider only PCGS- or NGC-certified coins.

If a coin is worth less than $100, the costs of certification amount to a substantial percentage of the value of the respective coin. One strategy is for collectors to attempt to buy almost all the coins in the set for less than $250 each, including many uncertified coins. A better though more costly strategy involves spending from $250 to $500 each for many of the Barber quarters in this set, while building a set in which all coins are PCGS- or NGC-graded.

A CAC sticker further reduces risk relating to quality. It is impossible, however, to eliminate all risk regarding purchases of vintage collectibles. For that matter, it is impossible to eliminate all risks pertaining to any activity or pursuit in life. Even so, collectors should accept the reality that buying scarce, vintage collectibles tends to be riskier than most acquisitions by the average person in everyday life. It is important to formulate a budget and a collecting plan.

Collectors should read about coins and study individual specimens. Most collectors learn as they become more experienced.

Overall, there is minimal risk associated with circulated Barber quarters that cost less than $500 each. Collectors of these should relax and enjoy themselves.

Better Dates

For all dates of Barber quarters from 1892 to 1895, an Extremely Fine-40 or higher grade representative could be purchased for less than $500. In May 2017, Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS graded AU-53 1892 for $100!

The 1896-O is a better date. On November 29, 2016, Heritage sold a PCGS-graded VF-30 1896-O for $258.50. On October 14, GreatCollections sold another PCGS-graded VF-30 1896-O for $275.

The 1896-S is one of the three keys. On May 9, 2017, Heritage sold a PCGS-graded AG-03 1896-S for $376. In December 2016, a different PCGS-graded AG-03 1896-S brought $329. Therefore, it is realistic to plan to acquire an 1896-S for less than $500, though it may turn out to be the lowest-graded coin in a set of the kind that is being suggested here.

1897-S Barber QuarterIt is certain that an Extremely Fine-40 or higher-grade 1897-O could be found for less than $500. The 1897-S is a whole different matter. Indeed, most specialists in Barber coins are unaware of the extreme scarcity of surviving 1897-S quarters that have been certified as grading from VF-25 to AU-58.

In August 2014, Heritage auctioned a PCGS-graded Fine-12 1897-S for $258.50 in August 2014 and sold one for $246.75 around a month later. These two, however, were the same coin. With some patience, a collector may locate a Fine- to VF-grade 1897-S for sale for under $500.

Though not nearly as scarce as the 1901-S, the 1901-O is certainly a better date. A VF-20 to VF-25 grade 1901-O could be obtained for less than $500. In July 2016, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-25 1901-O, with a sticker from CAC, for $470.

Besides, the coins just mentioned, all the other dates from 1897 to 1907 can be found in AU-50 or higher grades and acquired for less than $500 each. For example, a PCGS-graded AU-53 1904-O sold for $305.50 in an online event in December 2016.

With a $500-per-coin limit, a collector could buy an Extremely Fine grade 1908-S, though maybe not an AU grade 1908-S. In July 2015, Stack’s Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded EF-45 1908-S for $352.50.

The 1909-O is a semi-key. A Fine grade piece could be found for less than $500. In January 2017, Heritage sold a PCGS-graded Fine-12 1909-O for $423, a strong price at the time.

As for 1909, 1909-D, 1909-S, 1910, 1910-D and 1911 quarters, these are all common. A 1911-D is worth a premium. Curiously, 1911-D quarter eagles command premiums, as do 1909-O half eagles.

Undoubtedly, a 1911-D quarter that grades in the VF-30 to EF-45 range could be found and purchased for less than $500, within a matter of months. Finding a 1913 Philadelphia Mint quarter in EF-45 or higher grade that is available for less than $500 would be difficult, and may not be a practical objective. Certainly, though, a VF-30 to EF-40 grade 1913 could be acquired for less than $500.

A Poor-01 or non-gradable 1913-S could possibly be bought for less than $500. A Fair-02 grade 1913-S would probably retail for less than $650 in the current market. Someone assembling a set, without spending as much as $500 on any one Barber quarter, should probably just ignore the 1913-S. One that costs less than $600 might have serious problems or might not be genuine.

Except the 1914-S, Barber quarters from 1914 to 1916 are easy to acquire for less than $500 each. The 1914-S is a semi-key. In November 2016, Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS-graded VF-30 1914-S for $446.50 and a PCGS-graded VF-20 1914-S for $399.50.

Concluding Remarks

Of the 74 coins in the set, at least 72 may be acquired for less than $500 each. Most of them can be found in AU grades.

In many cases, it is a good idea to pay a premium for a coin that has a relatively original appearance, with soft natural toning. Circulated Barber coins that have very apparently been ‘dipped’ or have suffered from substantial chemical cleanings are shunned by many experienced collectors.

All PCGS-graded EF-40 coins of the same date and type are not equal and certainly vary in appearance. This is typically true of all assigned grades.

All genuine Barber quarters are more than a century old. Building a nearly complete set of Barber quarters would be fun and satisfying.

* * *

Recent Articles in the Series on Classic U.S. Coins for Less Than $500 Each:

Set of Liberty Seated Types | Capped Bust Half Dimes | Capped Bust Quarters | Liberty Head Nickels | Barber Dimes | Proof Shield Nickels | Braided Hair Half Cents | Matron Head Large Cents | Classic Head Half Cents | Draped Bust Half Cents | Classic Head Large Cents | Gem Early Lincoln Cents | Indian Head Half Eagles | Two Cent Pieces | Three Cent Nickels | Indian Head Quarter Eagles | Copper-Nickel Indian Cents | Standing Liberty Quarters | Walking Liberty Half Dollars | Bust Half Dollars


* * *

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

PCGS Set Registry

AU Capital Management US gold Coins

Professional Coin Grading Service