By Steven Cochran for Gainesville Coins ……
The 1965 Washington quarter was the first US quarter not made of 90% pure silver. This transition from silver “hard money” to copper coinage resulted in the rare and valuable 1965 silver quarter.
The 1960s Silver Crisis
Economic expansion caused skyrocketing silver prices in the early 1960s, causing a national coin shortage. People hoarded millions of dimes, quarters, and half dollars, which were made of solid 90% pure silver.
When the press reported rising silver prices, people hoarded more coins. When the press reported that there was a shortage of silver coins because people were hoarding them, they hoarded even more. The government would run out of silver by 1968 if the trend continued.
In 1965, the United States Mint officially switched from 90% pure silver coins to ones made from copper-nickel alloy. The new coins had a 75% copper/25% nickel cladding over a pure copper core, making the coin 8.33% nickel by volume.
Until they could source enough of the clad metal stock from the private sector, the Mint had to keep making 90% silver dimes and quarters. To prevent hoarding by coin speculators, the date on silver quarters was frozen at 1964 to avoid having rare 1965 or 1966 mintages.
The first clad quarters were struck in August 1965. They weren’t released into circulation until November 1965, so they kept the 1965 date until August 1, 1966, for the same reason.
Both silver and clad quarters were struck from 1965 through early 1966. Clad coin production had increased enough by then that supplemental silver coin production was no longer needed.
How to Tell if You Have a 1965 Silver Quarter: A Transitional Error
This is where the rare 1965 silver quarter enters the picture.
Coin blanks are held in giant hoppers before they are fed to the coin presses. Apparently, a small number of silver coin blanks lodged in the hopper after the switch to clad quarters. Sometime before July 1966, these blanks eventually worked loose and were made into 1965 quarters.
Most 1965 silver quarters circulated for quite a while before they were noticed. The only difference in appearance from a clad 1965 quarter is the absence of a copper-colored edge.
As an indication of how easily these coins slipped into commerce, only two Uncirculated 1965 silver quarters have been offered for sale by Heritage Auctions in the last 10 years. The most recent of these, an MS62 PCGS, sold for $16,800 in December 2020.
1965 Washington Quarter Price Chart
If your 1965 quarter is not an error coin, it may still be valuable if it is in Mint State condition. The chart below breaks down the values in each Mint State grade, ranging from MS60 to MS68.
Other 1965 Quarters Worth Money
There are other 1965 quarter error coins that are worth money.
One notable error is a 1965 quarter struck on a silver DIME blank. Although very rare, it happened more than once. A Mint State example can sell for more than $7,000.
A normal clad 1965 quarter can also be worth money, but only in the highest Mint State grades. This is because the coin shortage was so acute, and the new clad quarters so unpopular among collectors at the time, that practically none were saved before they went into circulation.
If you are lucky enough to find a pristine Uncirculated 1965 clad quarter, handle it very carefully and get it graded by a third-party coin grading service.
The finest known 1965 clad quarter, graded MS68, sold for more than $1,300 in July 2020.
An MS67+ example sold for $660 in July 2019.
An MS67 clad 1965 quarter sold for $288 in March 2022.
Doubled Die Obverse and Doubled Die Reverse 1965 quarters can sell for hundreds of dollars. Recent auctions include an Almost Uncirculated AU58 and a Mint State MS65, which sold for $360 and $720 respectively in March 2018.