By Bullion Shark LLC ……
Various coins were proposed to commemorate the bicentennial of President George Washington’s 1732 birth. The United States Congress ultimately approved a one-year quarter dollar that was issued in 1932 to the tune of over 6.2 million coins (5.4 million from Philadelphia, 436,800 from Denver, and 408,000 from San Francisco) at a time when that was quite a large mintage. The coin was so popular with the public that it returned in 1934 as an ongoing release that is still issued and widely collected today.
Just as many older collectors got started with silver Washington quarters in their youth, many younger and newer collectors today start by collecting the current series of Washington quarters – although it is harder to do this from circulation as it was in decades past.
The Key 1932-D
This coin is by far the key, because while its mintage is similar to the 1932-S, the 1932-D is five to 10 times rarer in grades MS63 and above than the S-mint coin. In those grades especially this issue remains a popular item at coin auctions, but both dates remain the series keys as discussed below.
[Editor’s Note: Looking for a clad key date? Look no further than the 1969. Read our expert analysis here.]
Decades of Design Change
The reverse of the Washington quarter was changed in 1999 from the original Heraldic Eagle to a long series of changing reverse designs starting with the 50 State Quarters program and followed by the America the Beautiful program in 2010.
In addition to new reverse designs for each of those state, U.S. territory, and national park coins, John Flanagan’s original left-facing portrait of Washington obverse was modified in 1999 to include more details in the hair and by moving the inscriptions “United States of America” and “Quarter Dollar” from the reverse to the obverse, while “Liberty” was moved from above the portrait to its left, and “In God We Trust” was moved from the left to the right of George Washington.
The America the Beautiful series ends in early 2021 with the Tuskegee Airmen coin that will start circulating on February 1. It will be succeeded by a new reverse design unveiled this past Christmas by the United States Mint showing Washington commanding his troops through the overnight crossing of the Delaware River before the Battle of Trenton in 1776. Designed by Benjamin Sowards and sculpted by Michael Gaudioso, the coin will be released into circulation on April 5 and will also be issued as a five-ounce silver bullion coin. In addition, the obverse design used before the State and national parks coins will be reprised.
The Near Future: 2022-2030
The U.S. Congress just passed a major coin bill (the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020) that, if enacted, will result in the issuance of several series of new quarters, including:
- Five reverse designs per year of prominent American women (2022-25)
- Up to five different reverse designs plus new obverse and reverse designs for all other circulating coins for the semi-quincentennial of the country’s founding (2026)
- Up to five reverse designs on youth sports and one half dollar reverse design for Paralympic sports (2027-30)
The bill passed both the House and the Senate (with an amendment to ensure the coins are issued at no expense to taxpayers) and was presented to the president on January 1, 2021.
Like the ATB series, the forthcoming quarter series are also expected to be issued in five-ounce .999 silver versions and possibly also in fractional silver versions as laid out in the bill above.
Silver Washington Quarters
All quarters issued from 1932 to 1964 (except 1933) as well as those made for Proof sets from 1998 to the present are made of 90% silver and 10% copper. But beginning in 2019 with the Lowell National Historical Park coin and those issued since for silver Proof sets are made of .999 silver.
The 90% coins have a net silver weight of .18084 ounces, so at today’s spot price of $26.14 USD [At the time of writing on January 1. –CoinWeek], each of those has a melt value of $4.7273, while the .999 coins with a weight of 6.343 grams are worth $5.3234.
Washington Quarter Values and other Key Dates
Because it’s a long series with common dates starting in the 1930s for higher mintage issues, a type coin in MS60 is just $8, $25 in MS65, and $110 in MS67 – the highest grade for the older coins.
For coins issued since 1999, it is mainly examples graded MS69, MS70, and Proof 70 that are valuable.
In addition to the 1932-D mentioned above, the 1932-S as the lowest-mintage Washington quarter as well as being a first-year-of-issue coin is also a popular key date.
In lower circulated grades both issues are worth about $100. Then in XF the 1932-D is worth $200, while the S is priced at $145. By MS60 the gaps widen considerably, with the D at $1,100 and the S at $350. In MS64 they are $1,400 and $375, respectively; at MS65 they are $7,500 and $2,450; and at the highest grade known they are an amazing $85,000 and $47,500, with just two and five coins graded by PCGS at those levels. But the record sale price from 2008 is $143,750 for an MS66 D-mint.
Washington Quarter Errors
There are quite a few errors in this series, but the most well known and valuable are:
- 1937 Doubled Die Obverse: $550 in XF40, $2,000 in MS60 and $6500 in MS65
- 1942-D Doubled Die Obverse: $275, $2,000, and $8,000 in the same grades
- 1943 Doubled Die Obverse (the rarest of this type of error with only 137 coins total graded by PCGS): $3,000, $10,000, and $16,500
- 1943-S Doubled Die Obverse: $240, $525, and $1,150
Among the State quarters, there are several error coins, with the best-known being the 2004-D Wisconsin with an extra leaf of corn that comes in High Leaf and Low Leaf varieties worth respectively $145 and $100 in MS63; $200 and $125 in MS65; and jumps up at MS67 to $3,250 and $4,500.
The other well-known error is the 2005 Minnesota coin with an extra tree worth under $20-$45 in MS63-MS66 and $70 in MS67.
The State quarter series in particular is credited with creating many new coin collectors. It remains to be seen what the impact on the hobby will be of all the new reverse designs coming in 2021 and over the next decade. But no matter what happens, Washington quarters will remain a key staple of U.S. numismatics that straddles the classic/modern coin divide and can be collected at all levels.