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Quarters – Liberty Seated Quarter, No Motto, Drapery, 1840-1865


The Liberty Seated quarter produced in 1838, 1839, and part of 1840 did not have an extra fold of drapery hanging forward from Liberty’s left elbow. United States Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson hired miniaturist Robert Ball Hughes in 1840 to improve the design (both styles were produced in 1840), though many commentators question whether the changes made by Hughes were actually improvements. The most obvious change, from which the type is named, was the addition of the extra drapery at Liberty’s elbow, but other changes were also made. Most apparent when No Drapery and Drapery quarters are placed side-by-side, these changes include a more ‘stocky’ Liberty (as seen in the larger size of her arms), other drapery modifications (particularly around the neck), a smaller rock upon which Liberty rests, a slightly different angle of repose for the shield, a modified LIBERTY banner, and resized legends.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

No Motto Liberty Seated quarters were produced through 1865 (a unique 1866 proof specimen is known, though unnoted in the Mint Director’s report and not issued for circulation), but within that time span are two additional quarter types; and arguably a third, though the last is a difference of coin weight only and is not usually identified or collected as a separate type. The two accepted types, the Arrows at Date, Rays Around Eagle (most often labeled as Arrows and Rays), and the later Arrows at Date, No Rays, were necessitated by increasing prices of silver in the early 1850s. Silver coins were being melted because the silver content exceeded the face value, and a reduction in the quarter’s weight to halt the melting was identified first by the addition of obverse arrows and reverse rays. Apparently, because of excessive die wear from the added design elements, the rays were eliminated for 1854 and 1855 issues. In 1856 the arrows were also removed, but Liberty Seated quarters continued to be produced at the lower weight until the design was changed with the addition of IN GOD WE TRUST in 1866.

On the obverse is a full-length representation of Liberty wearing long, flowing robes, seated on a rock, and head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a slightly curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. In 1853 a short arrowhead was placed on each side of the date to indicate a lower coin weight, remaining as part of the design through 1855. Inside dentils along the raised rim 13 stars form a partial circle, seven to the left of Liberty, one between Liberty’s head and the Liberty cap, and five to the right of the cap.

The reverse has a centered left-facing eagle, with extended but partly folded wings. The eagle clutches three arrows in the left claw and an olive branch in the right. A Union shield is placed over the chest, and on 1853 quarters many radiating lines extend from behind the eagle on all sides nearly to the surrounding legends. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA forms a concentric arc around the top two-thirds of the surface, inside of the dentils circling the rim, with the denomination of QUAR. DOL. at the bottom visually completing the circle. The No Motto, Drapery Liberty Seated quarter was minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco; O and S mintmarks are located above QUAR. DOL., below the crossed ends of the branch and the arrows.

A few thousand business strike Seated, No Motto, Drapery quarters are listed in census/ population reports, though proportionally fewer for the 1840s, early 1850s, and the Civil War-era years of the early to mid-1860s. A very few prooflike pieces have been certified. Other than the first year of each of these two types, the Arrows and Rays quarter and Arrows Liberty Seated quarter produced from 1853 through 1855 are also scarce. Prices for many dates are moderate up to grades of MS60, expensive from there to near-Gem, and very expensive finer than that. Higher priced issues include 1842-O Small Date, 1840s and early 1850s New Orleans issues, 1853 No Arrows, 1853 over 1853 No Arrows, 1854-O Huge O, and most San Francisco pieces from 1856 through 1865. A few hundred proof Seated, No Motto, Drapery quarters have been certified, but as with business strike coins, there are far fewer for the 1840s and early to mid-1850s, and for the types with Arrows. Cameo and Deep Cameo pieces show up in census/ population reports, mostly from the mid-1850s to the end of the type. Proofs from the 1840s through the 1850s are very expensive to extremely expensive (Gem and finer), and those produced in the 1860s are moderately priced to PR63, expensive finer than that. All proofs minted earlier than 1856 are higher priced, particularly those dated 1840, 1841, 1842 Small Date, 1843, 1844, 1850, and 1853 Arrows and Rays. Cameo and Deep Cameo pieces have higher premiums.

Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from Thomas Sully sketches; reverse after John Reich and William Kneass, Rays by James Barton Longacre.
Circulation Mintage: high 9,644,000 (1857; 15,210,020 1853 Arrows and Rays), low 20,000 (1864-S)
Proof Mintage: 1,000 (1860 and 1861), low 300 (1858, though as few as ten per year estimated for the 1840s and early 1850s)
Denomination: Twenty-five cents (25/100)
Diameter: 24.3 mm; reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 6.68 grams, 1840-1853; 6.22 grams 1853-1865
Varieties: Several known, including 1842 Small Date and Large Date; 1842-O Small Date and Large Date; 1853 Recut Date, no Arrows or Rays (1853/ 1853); 1853, 3 over 4 (Arrows and Rays); 1854-O, Huge O; 1856-S, S Over Small S; the unique 1866 proof No Motto example, believed to be a fantasy piece; and other minor die variations.

Additional Resources:
CoinFacts: www.coinfacts.com
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing.
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

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