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Quarters – Standing Liberty Quarter, Type 2, 1917-1930

In 1916 Charles E. Barber’s designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar were set aside, replaced by Adolph A. Weinman’s designs for the dime (Winged Liberty Head, or Mercury) and half dollar (Liberty Walking); and Hermon A. MacNeil’s design for the quarter. MacNeil, a noted sculptor for public works projects, placed a standing pose of Liberty on the obverse of the quarter and a soaring eagle on the reverse. His models for Liberty were likely silent film actor Dora Doscher (also known as Doris Doree) and Broadway actor Irene MacDowell. Though MacNeil’s design was a continuance of the artistic renaissance displayed on other coins of the early 20th century, one aspect of his portrayal of Liberty has been the subject of debate ever since: her partial nudity, specifically the undraped right breast. The 1896 $5 Silver Certificate had similarly exposed the female body, reportedly to the dismay of the ladies of Boston society, which resulted in some bankers refusing to handle the notes.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

MacNeil’s Liberty was covered up in 1917 (thus producing the Type 2 style) not by extension of her cloth robes but by a somewhat incongruous chain mail vest, and many assume the reason for the change was public disapproval of the nudity. However, some well-respected scholars disagree, noting that no contemporary accounts of such objections are known, and that it was instead MacNeil’s decision to change the design, based on his dissatisfaction with elements of the original effort. The new portrayal may have been a message of America’s military preparedness, while others suggest changes were made without MacNeil’s approval (perhaps by Mint Engraver Charles E. Barber); the discussion is ongoing. The duality of opinion is evident in the fact that one author describes the two types as “Bare Bosom” and “Covered Bosom”, while others focus not on Liberty but instead on the change in star placement on the reverse, calling the two types No Stars Below Eagle and Stars Below Eagle.

To protect it from excessive wear from its exposed position, the date was recessed in 1925, a change considered a third type of the series by some collectors. No quarters were minted in 1922, and though occasionally alleged to exist in the Standing Liberty series, no 1931 quarters are known. Standing Liberty quarters also include a popular sub-type, that of quarters with a “Full Head” classification, which refers to the presence of details in Liberty’s head. Those details include distinguishable leaves in Liberty’s hair, distinct hairline, and evident ear detail. Some authorities suggest that the complete presence of all the rivets in the shield held by Liberty is an alternative, perhaps better indicator of a full strike. However, both head and rivet detail may not be present in the same coin, but only the presence of head detail defines the subtype. In 1932, the quarter was again modified to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

The obverse displays Liberty standing in the opening of a wall or parapet, right leg resting on the base but left foot raised as if she is walking forward. Her long flowing gown drapes loosely and is wrapped around her right arm, but falls off the shoulders to reveal a chain mail armor vest. The gown is partly open at the bottom front (the hem held up by a clasp), displaying the right leg to above the knee. On many coins Liberty’s navel is clearly visible through the thin material. Her left arm holds a circular shield as if in a defensive posture; the shield displays the Union shield and several concentric rings including a circle of raised dots or rivets near the edge. Liberty’s right arm is extended outward, resting on a portion of the wall, and her hand holds an olive branch. Another loose drapery covers the bottom part of the shield, extends across the front of Liberty, and ends beneath the arm on the top of the wall.

The word LIBERTY arcs across the top of the coin, B and E separated by Liberty’s head. Both wall sections display a rectangular panel of horizontal stripes, with IN GOD at the top of the left wall and WE TRUST (the U depicted as a V) similarly located on the right wall. Thirteen five-point stars form two columns along the wall edges next to the opening, seven to the left and six to the right (the top left star follows the D in GOD). The step upon which Liberty stands displays the date in raised numerals; the date is recessed below the top edge of the step from 1925 forward, though still in raised digits. The designer’s initial M is to the right of the bottom star in the right column, and for quarters minted in Denver or San Francisco, D and S mintmarks are located to the right of the bottom star in the left column. Inside the flat rim is a concentric ornamental ring comprised of bars and dots; the ring is broken by the step that displays the date.

The center obverse shows an eagle in flight, headed to the right, wings outstretched and raised. Inside the flat rim is a concentric ring of UNITED STATES at the top, QUARTER DOLLAR at the bottom, with five five-point stars separating UNITED and QUARTER on the left and five five-point stars separating STATES and DOLLAR on the right. Three additional five-point stars are below the eagle, above QUARTER DOLLAR. OF AMERICA, in two lines and of smaller-sized letters, lies below UNITED STATES; below that text in even smaller letters is E PLURIBUS UNUM on two lines, each letter U again shown as a V.

Several hundred to a few thousand business strike Standing Liberty Type 2 quarters have been certified for each date, more for the 1920s and 1930s coins. A few hundred Full Head examples are listed for most dates and mintmarks. Prices are modest for many issues through MS63, becoming expensive to very expensive as MS64 and finer. Higher priced coins are the 1918-S, 8 Over 7, 1923-S, 1927-S, and Full Head examples. Some Full Head pieces are extremely expensive as MS64 and finer. No official Standing Liberty Type 2 proofs were made.

Designer: Hermon A. MacNeil
Circulation Mintage: High 27,860,000 (1920), low 396,000 (1927-S)
Proof Mintage: None officially known
Denomination: Twenty-five cents (25/100)
Diameter: 24.3 mm, reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 6.25 grams
Varieties: A very few identified including 1918-S, 8 Over 7; 1928-S Large and Small S; and other minor die variations.

Additional Resources:
CoinFacts: www.coinfacts.com
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
Standing Liberty Quarters. J.H. Cline. Zyrus Press.
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.
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

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  1. During the ‘teens and twenties of the last century it was very common for artists to use the 24-character Roman alphabet rather than the modern English alphabet when lettering classically-themed designs. Like the letter Y that acts as both a vowel and a consonant in modern English, V and I also did double duty for the Romans – TRIPLE if you count their use as numerals! The letters U and J for the respective vowel sounds didn’t come into use until the Middle Ages.

    I grew up near a city where many buildings from that era follow the same convention. My favorite has the bold inscription “AQVARIVM” over its entrance, no doubt because they once displayed tvna, halibvt, and gvppies.

  2. I have been trying to find out what percent of the1917 standing liberty quarters have the 100% full head versus the minimum full head requirements as described by pcs and ngc.


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