By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
 

Walter Breen doesn’t mention it, and in A Guide Book of Washington and State Quarters (Whitman, 2006), Q. David Bowers offers up the generic (“Cherrypicking for quality is advised”), and the baffling (“In this era plastic holders … were a popular way to display sets of coins, including Washington quarters”). The 2013 edition of the Red Book notes that a MS-63 specimen is “worth” $3.00, while MS-65 commands a little more at $10.00. Fact is, you’ll have to search far and wide to find truly helpful advice about this modern issue. Which is why we’re here to tell you that the 1969 Philly strike quarter is, without a doubt, one of the toughest clad coins to find in gem condition, and it has the potential to be one of the key coins (taking quality into account) of the 20th century.

1969 quarterOf course, with a mintage of over 176 million business strikes, notions of scarcity do not apply to the 1969 quarter, even in mint state. When it comes to mint state examples, most of what you find is either in a mint set or pulled from a mint set, which is just as well, as the mint set coins are almost always better struck up than their working-strike counterparts. Original B.U. rolls of this issue are almost unheard of and it’s been that way for years, placing the likely surviving population of uncirculated coins at or below the 1.8 million mint set coins sold to collectors and dealers in 1969. From these sets, untold tens of thousands have already been scoped out by the handful of clad specialists who’ve been hunting for elusive high-end quarters since the 1970s and ‘80s. Their search hasn’t yielded much success after all these years, as PCGS has only graded three pieces at MS-67 since its founding in 1986, and fewer than 75 in MS-66.

The fact of the matter is, the 1969 quarter is one ugly coin, marred by poor strikes, poor die condition, poor planchet quality… you name it. Whereas most coins come nice in one or more respects but have some distracting feature that keeps them from being a desirable, highly graded coin, 1969s are almost uniformly awful in every respect. Mitch Spivack, a longtime clad specialist, calls the coin one of the toughest clad quarters to find in gem, meaning one would have to look through a hundred or more fresh mint sets to even find one candidate for MS-65.[1]

And Spivack is not alone. Another leading clad specialist, Sam Petry (known online as CladKing), agrees with Spivack’s assessment, saying that the ’69 was a continuation of the inferior quality output of the Mint in 1968, blaming the poorly annealed planchets and worker apathy as the primary culprits.

“In fact,” says Petry, “the only time I ever saw nice 1969 quarters was one time when I visited a dealer after he had received a roll of them from a customer. Not caring much for clad coins, he had just opened the roll and dumped them in the register…. But he knew I liked clads and let me buy them from him for $1.00 a piece. They were the best looking ’69s I had ever seen and had I not shown up at the right time, they would have all been handed off as change. This was a couple years ago[2].”

Unfortunately for people other than Sam Petry, finding quality 1969 quarters in clusters hasn’t been so easy. To illustrate just how weak the 1969 is compared to other issues from the same period, take a look at the table below. We arrive at the Arithmetic Mean Grade for each date by first multiplying the total number of coins within each MS grade by the value of that MS-grade (63, 64, 65, and so on…) and then dividing our total by the number of all mint state coins graded.

When looking at the data you have to take into account the “high grade” bias built into numbers that reflect the behavior of submitters aiming for high grades and not trying to accurately depict the typical range of grades. Scores above 65.5 demonstrate that a significant number of submitted quarters are grading MS-66, a profitable grade, and likely what the grade submitters are looking for, at a minimum. Mean grades below 65, such as what we find with the 1969 and the 1971 (another tough date for quality), indicate that the quality of the issue is so bad that dealers and collectors cannot consistently determine which coins from this year are gems and are submitting the best candidates they find to no avail.

This sample size also illustrates the generally accepted opinion that Denver produced better coins in the ‘60s and ‘70s than the Philadelphia Mint. This carries over to other denominations as well, especially Eisenhower dollars.

Date Arithmetic Mean Grade[3] Percent Change of Quality Sample Size[4]
1965[5] 65.36 419
1966 65.71 372
1967 65.86 418
1968 65.70 373
1968-D 65.94 0.37% 1439
1969 64.29 285
1969-D 65.61 2.05% 579
1970 65.34 275
1970-D 65.83 0.75% 947
1971 64.78 258
1971-D 65.57 1.22% 541

This sample size is illustrative of the generally accepted opinion that Denver produced better coins in the ‘60s and ‘70s than the Philadelphia Mint.

The 1969 quarter in MS-66 comes up for auction a couple of times a year. It’s not only a scarce coin to find in high grades, it’s a scarce coin to find up for sale, period. The second of three known MS-67’s last sold in February, 2001 for $825[6]. The coin is very early die state and has traces of frost on the devices with minimal distractions. It’s an accurately graded coin. We have no doubt that this piece would have no problem selling for three or four times that if offered today.

Recently, we discussed the price decline of the 2001-S Sacagawea dollar. At the peak of the market, the 2001-S achieved prices that were multiples of any price a 1969 quarter has commanded. The difference between the two coins should be immediately obvious. A modern proof coin comes exceptionally nice with a typical grade of PR-69DCAM. This means that the difference between a PR-70DCAM coin – in other words, one that is “perfect” from a marketing standpoint and one that is “nearly” perfect – is highly technical and more or less unidentifiable to most collectors and dealers. From a population standpoint, the 2001-S in PR-70DCAM represents the top 2.77% of coins submitted for grading.[7]

The 1969 quarter, on the other hand, does not come nice. It’s likely that most collectors have never seen one in MS-65 or better. The typical 1969 quarter grades MS-63 or MS-64 with the occasional MS-65 popping up here and there. A technical MS-66 coin is scarce, and an attractive MS-66 is doubly scarce. In MS-67? Forget it.

If you want our advice as to where the greatest yield spread of investment versus return is, it would be in hunting out quality coins such as this. You will face stiff competition for quality pieces and we are running out time in terms of finding fresh, unsearched mint sets and rolls. But your only competition will be clad specialists and certain types of dealers because, for the majority of the hobby, these coins are worth no special consideration.

* * *

FLIP OF A COIN:

Although mintage of federal gold coins began nine years earlier, it wasn’t until 1804, when the Treasury purchased eleven million dollars in gold ingots from North Carolina-based Cabbarus Company, that the United States produced coins from virgin gold.

With the release of the third and final Batman movie by the wildly-overrated Christopher Nolan, maybe it occurs to you that coins seem to pop up in Batman more frequently than in other comics (with the exception of Scrooge McDuck).  There are at least two very famous examples: Two-Face’s coin and the giant penny in the Batcave. Two-Face has used various coins as part of his shtick over the years, most recently a Sac dollar. But the first was a double-headed (magician’s coin) 1922 Peace dollar, as first seen clearly in Detective Comics #68 (Oct. 1942). The giant penny was courtesy of the Penny Plunderer, one of many neglected Batman villains from the Silver Age. Both he and the penny first appeared in World’s Finest Comics #30 (Sept.-Oct. 1947). On second thought, give Nolan a crack at the Plunderer!

You know moderns have arrived when counterfeiters are trying to imitate key dates. This laughably bad attempt at a 1982-D was discovered by collector Will Fenwick, who discovered it when cleaning out a coin machine at a bank in New Jersey.


[2] Petry, Sam. (August 15, 2012). Telephone interview.

[3] Source www.pcgs.com. Accessed 8/18/2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5]Quarters minted from 1965-1967 were produced in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco but bore no mint marks.

[6] http://www.teletrade.com/coins/lot.asp?auction=1405&lot=1226#n

[7] www.pcgs.com.

Originally posted to CoinWeek in Sept 2012

 


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14 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been rolling up washington quarters for the last 2years and have found many that would grade ms 64 or better 1965-99

  2. I have a 1969 quarter with no mint mark, and I have a 1969D quarter. They are raw, neither one graded, but they look pretty good to me, and make my collection that much better.

  3. I have an ungraded 1969 quarter if anyone happens to see this. I have all years from 1965-1989. Some have slight like DD and Doubling errors some don’t.

  4. I have plenty of the 65 to the 79 I don’t really collect nothing any older than that not less I can spot a error I will keep the state quarters that have the clad has come off I do consider that to be a error you see these coins on ebay all the time I think they have their prices to high but that is my opinion if they can get that out of theme good for them and these are all raw coins I have some nice quarters I call these quarters key dates cause you can’t find one in a very high mint state I been doing this for a long time I’m just a collector not a seller I have some of the nisest coins you will see out there people hoallar that they have 65 or 69 in the highest grade they are I have to see them with my own eyes I have done plenty of research and if there telling the truth and I don’t think they are laying there is none we would have seen it now just for some body to have branging rights buy now they never come out of the mint department to have that kind of grade that is why you want find them they didn’t make them it seems odd that out of all the mints derpment there we can’t even find a 68 there are reasons for everything it was not meant to be It the same way with the Lincoln cent specially the wheat Penny’s you can’t find one in mint shape know more as many wheat Penny’s were made from 1909 to 1958 ever body should have one or two if I was a beating man and I am I would say out of all the people that collect don’t have no more than 2 cents that will go over a 65 that giving people a little room there to call me wrong I do to much research on these coins folks if you ant got at least a 67 plus you don’t have nothing that goes for any coin out there and man there is a lot of coins out there I got some of the nicest pieces you can see in Washington quarters silver dimes mercery dimes buffalo nickels wheat Penny’s steel penny but there probably not higher than a 68 folks when I started I thought everyone I came across was the best coin out there boy that was a joke I’m a small little ant to some people but I collect nothing but the best if you collect nothing but the best go through your collection and see how many coins are not there I have build sets out of pocket change and some are in great shape plus I build them in mint shape I am trying to build one right now that would go for some money I am leaving all my coins for my grandbabies one day all these coins might be worth something in a nother 20 years.and before I go let me tell the new people something you can build a nice wheat Penny set right out of your pocket but it takes a lot of time the wheat Penny’s about gone they should have a better price on them but they don’t you still can find these coins I went the other day I have a small little store I get there coins from to the quarter to the penny I got 12 rolls of Penny’s all they had been getting coins from this place for 3 months but back what I was saying I got them rolls went home I noticed just on the ends they look very old I opened the first roll had 35 wheat Penny’s in it and the rest of the coins in that roll was 1969d and 71 look like they just come off the mint floor so I opened the next roll had 30 wheat Penny’s in it just like the first roll ever roll I got that day was like that had one roll had 45 wheat Penny’s in it I got right at 300 wheat Penny’s that day so there still out there i got 1914 d I don’t know how many 1919 plus 1916d 1918 d the list just goes on and on I lost count of the errors I have found in all of that from DDO on the date repunched mint mark got a bunch of them I still ant went through all of them I like about 50 more I found two red coins out of all of that the rest is brown chocolate but there in good shape something pretty good if you were needing a collection build the coin I was really looking for was the 1922 no d that would be nice but I still ant done I put them to the side I opened my first roll of fresh coins most were mint but only one stood out it was a 1982 large date copper DDO I’ve been looking for this coin for a minute it might grade a mint 63 maybe I wish it would have been better but I’m happy with it I collect the 82 coins all the small dates I have a bunch one day the small dates will be worth some money you will have to have a error of some kind or a DDO or DDR large date zinc or copper to have any thing but keep all your small dates there is a DDR out there on a zinc Penny’s that are worth big money if you can get it in the right mint if not still worth a little bit I just wanted to write lay down some facts remember it has to be about perfect too be a mint state 67

  5. I have a mint 1969 quarter I was wondering how much they are worth I also had a mint 1969 half dollar dime nickel and Penny and I know the 1969 penny s has double die on it I was wondering if the set is still valuable.

    • On the face of it, any coin from this date pulled from circulation is not likely to have much numismatic value. However, as the article suggests, attractive mint state coins in high grades are difficult to come by and are sold for premiums in the marketplace.

  6. Have two 1969 S Proof sets. Finally got my microscope working well enough to check over them well, and seems one of the quarters has a RPM, S/S. Can’t find any listing on Wexlers or Variety Vista for this rpm..anyone know where I can get more info? TIA

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