Learn Grading: What Is the Full Head Designation on the Standing Liberty Quarter ?
NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin’s condition. Certain coins, however, are eligible for a more nuanced description of their condition and appearance. For these coins, NGC graders follow the numeric grade with a range of designations, often called “Strike Characters.”
The Standing Liberty Quarter series (1916-1930) was the predecessor to the long-lived Washington series. Once a couple of key dates are cleared, the relatively short length of the Standing Liberty Quarter series makes it easy to collect.
ABOVE: Obverse of 1919-D Standing Liberty Quarter, graded NGC MS 61 without the FH designation. Notice lack of detail on the head.
The obverse of the Standing Liberty Quarter designed by Hermon Atkins MacNeil features Liberty portrayed similar to a Greek goddess, holding a shield in one hand and an olive branch in the other. Her head, near the top of the coin, splits the word LIBERTY. NGC uses the Full Head (FH) designation for coins where Liberty’s head appears well-struck, as follows:
- three leaves in Liberty’s hair must be totally visible;
- the hairline along Liberty’s brow must be complete;
- the ear indentation must be evident.
ABOVE: Obverse of 1920 Standing Liberty Quarter, graded NGC MS 66 FH designation.
The FH designation is rarer on certain year and mintmark combinations. With the 1930 issue, NGC has actually graded more with the FH designation that without it. In contrast, only about 2 percent of more than 2,300 1926-D specimens earned the FH designation, resulting in a signficant numismatic premium.
Standing Liberty Quarters do not need to be Mint State to qualify for the FH designation, but it should be no surprise that most that qualify are Mint State. (There are no proof Standing Liberty Quarters.)
The Standing Liberty Quarter is the only Quarter series with a unique strike character. Other series with unique strike chracters include the Franklin Half Dollar, the Mercury and Roosevelt Dimes and the Jefferson Nickel.
Coins with certain strike characters are often more highly prized by collectors. As a result, strike characters are separated on different lines for each coin in the NGC Census to give a better understanding of their relative rarity. The NGC Price Guide also lists the FH designation separately.
NGC assigns these strike characters automatically as part of its normal grading process for no additional fee.