First released in 1916 with a minuscule mintage, the Standing Liberty Quarter garnered almost immediate controversy. As the newly appointed Director of the Mint, Robert W. Woolley held a public competition to replace the earlier Barber designs on the dime, quarter, and half dollar. While anyone could submit designs, the famous American sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s design was selected after some modifications. The obverse depiction of Lady Liberty is thought to be based on either the silent film actor Doris Doscher or Broadway actor Irene MacDowell. Regardless of who the model was, for the first time in American history, the nation’s coinage depicted partial frontal nudity.
Despite the fabled controversy, it took time to change the design, and it wasn’t until mid-February 1917 that Lady Liberty was fully clad in a chainmail undergarment. By that point, the Philadelphia Mint had already struck 8,740,000 pieces. This was the largest issuance for the denomination since the 1909 Barber quarter. That being said, from when the design was changed until the end of 1917, the mint would strike an additional 13,880,000 pieces belonging to the Type 2 style design.
J.H. Cline, noted expert on the Standing Liberty Quarter, estimated that due to improvements the Mint made to the obverse hub, 80% of all Type 1 quarters in uncirculated condition display Liberty’s full head. PCGS states that in order to receive the Full Head (FH) designation the coins must have “a clear and distinct separation between Miss Liberty’s hair cords and her cap.”
The Type 1 1917 Standing Liberty Quarter in Today’s Market
Currently, the auction record for a standard strike, non-FH example, stands at $11,550 USD. It was set by an example graded MS-63 sold by Heritage Auctions in their September 1996 sale. Despite this, the price of these coins has dropped over the past 25 years. Recently, standard high Mint State examples (MS-66 – MS-67) have been selling for $2,000 to $6,500. As the grade drops, and as the certified population grows, we see that in mid-Mint State (MS-63 – MS-65) examples regularly sell for $300 to $600. A few steps lower, between About Uncirculated to Low Mint State (AU-53 – MS-62), examples are worth $200 to $300. Prices for mid-grade examples, between VF and EF, remain relatively stable and range from $80 to $100.
Meanwhile, the auction record for a Full Head example stands at $32,900, for an MS 67+, sold by Heritage Auctions in January 2016. While this designation is not a guarantee that the coin will command a premium over non-FH examples, this is usually the case. For instance, examples graded MS-67 have recently sold for $23,000 to $27,600 at auction. In lower grades, examples generally sell for a $200 to $600 premium. MS-65s are now selling for $900 to $1,000, and AU 55’s for $200 to $500.
The obverse displays Liberty standing in the opening of a wall with her right leg resting on the base and left foot raised as if walking forward. Her gown drapes loosely and is wrapped around her right arm but falls off the shoulders exposing the right breast. Her left arm holds a circular shield as if in a defensive posture; the shield displays the Union shield and several concentric rings including a circle of raised dots or rivets near the edge. Liberty’s right arm is extended, resting on the wall, and her hand holds an olive branch. Another drapery covers the shields bottom, extends across the front of Liberty, and ends beneath the arm on the top of the wall.
LIBERTY arcs across the top of the coin, the L partially covered by the olive branch, and B and E separated by Liberty’s head. Both wall sections display a rectangular panel of horizontal stripes, with IN GOD at the top of the left wall and WE TRUST (the U depicted as a V) on the right wall. Thirteen five-point stars form two columns along the wall edges next to the opening, seven to the left and six to the right. The step upon which Liberty stands displays the date in raised numerals. The designer’s initial (M) is to the right of the bottom star in the right column. Since this coin was struck in Philadelphia, there is no mintmark. Inside the flat rim is a concentric ornamental ring consisting of two raised angular dots alternating with a short, raised bar; the ring is broken by the step that displays the date.
The center obverse shows an eagle in flight, headed to the right, wings outstretched and raised. Inside the flat rim is a concentric ring of UNITED STATES at the top and QUARTER DOLLAR at the bottom, with seven five-point stars separating UNITED and QUARTER on the left and six five-point stars separating STATES and DOLLAR on the right. Centered dots separate the two words of both the legend and the denomination. OF AMERICA, in two lines and of smaller letters, lies below UNITED STATES; below that text is E PLURIBUS UNUM on two lines; E and PLURIBUS are also separated by a center dot.
The edge of the Type 1 1917 Standing Liberty Quarter is reeded.
Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Hermon Atkins MacNeil attended Massachusetts Normal Art School, currently known as Massachusetts College of Art and Design, graduating in 1886. Over the next few decades, he became famous for his sculptural depiction of Native American figures. MacNeil’s work includes pieces such as The Moqui Runner and The Sun Vow. While his most famous design is the Standing Liberty quarter, he is also famous for designing the East pediment of the US Supreme Court building titled Justice, the Guardian of Liberty.
|Year Of Issue:||1917|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||Hermon A. MacNeil|
|REV Designer||Hermon A. MacNeil|