By CoinWeek ….
Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Standing Liberty quarter. To mark the occasion, the United States Mint celebrated the classic coin by producing a 1/4 ounce, .9999 fine gold version featuring an adaptation of Hermon A. MacNeil’s iconic design. But the high retail cost of the new gold coin, let alone collecting the entire centennial three-coin set, put many collectors off of the special commemorative.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to assemble a nice set of the real thing. And the Top Hat Collection of Standing Liberty Quarters, offered by David Lawrence Rare Coins in Internet Auction #962, is full of choice examples.
What Are Standing Liberty Quarters?
Standing Liberty Quarters were issued from 1916 through 1930 (no quarters were issued in 1931). It was the last quarter type before John Flanagan’s design for the Washington quarter–a version of which continues to this very day–made its debut in 1932. The obverse depicts Lady Liberty “awakening” to that fact that she must prepare to join the war in Europe. She raises a shield, which bears the Great Seal of the United States, in front of herself with her left arm while holding an olive branch in her right hand in such a way that she can almost be seen to be putting it down. Noticeably, she is bare-breasted like the French Marianne and recognizably dressed in a Classically Greek fashion, complete with a Phrygian cap (a time-honored icon of liberty). A length of fabric is draped between her shield and right hand. Liberty crosses through an opening in a low wall or enclosure that features the patriotic motif of 13 stars (seven to her right, six to her left – representing the 13 colonies that gained their freedom from Britain during the American Revolution) and the religious ideal of the National Motto “In God We Trust”.
She stands barefoot on a step adorned with the coin’s issue date. To the right of the date is the letter “M”, Hermon MacNeil’s designer mark.
Legend has it that MacNeil’s original bare-breasted Liberty (Type 1) was too risqué for the prudish sensibilities of some Americans at the time and so the Mint was forced to change the design in 1917 with the addition of chain mail (Type 2) to protect her modesty. It’s a fun story (and one of the classic yarns of Numismatic lore), but apparently it’s not true; the artist himself made the change, as part of a larger trend in his work.
The reverse was also changed, with MacNeil’s masterful naturalistic eagle raised somewhat from the bottom and three of the 13 stars along the rim were moved to a position underneath the eagle to drastically unclutter the overall design.
Standing Liberty quarters were struck in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco in almost every year of issue. Only the Philadelphia Mint produced quarters in 1916 and 1925, and no quarters came out of Denver in 1930. Proof versions of the Standing Liberty quarter are not known to exist.
The following are some of the highlights of the Top Hat Collection, courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC):
1917-S Type 1, PCGS/CAC MS65 FH
Lot 4170 is a nice example of a Type 1 SLQ from the first year of production at the San Francisco Mint. This particular coin’s surfaces are white with original luster. Only 40 other specimens have been graded MS-65 FH (“Full Head”) by PCGS, and the strike and eye appeal earned it the approval of CAC. Indeed, “Full Head”–like “Full Steps” on Lincoln Memorial cents or “Full Bell Lines” on Franklin half dollars–refers to the fact that on Standing Liberty quarters, Lady Liberty’s head often features a mediocre strike.
David Lawrence Rare Coins gives an estimate of $2,500 USD for this coin; at the time of writing, the current bid is $1,600.
1923-S PCGS MS65 FH
Another FH-designated example, lot 4212 is a key date for the series, with the San Francisco Mint striking only 1,360,000 quarters in 1923. Only 1916, 1927-D, 1927-S and 1929-D saw fewer coins produced.
PCGS CoinFacts gives a population of only 97 pieces graded MS-65. Add attractive coppery, russet toning on both sides, and you’ve got a coin that stands out in almost any collection. DLRC estimates it will draw around $6,000; current bid is $2,500.
1916 Standing Liberty PCGS MS63 FH
It’s probably natural that the top coin in the Top Hat Collection is an example of the first year of issue. Struck in Philadelphia, only 52,000 Standing Liberty quarters were produced in 1916, making it the primary key date and the lowest mintage of the series.
Lot 4155 is graded MS-63 FH by PCGS, of which the grading company has certified a total of 97 pieces (of the grade, that is; a Full Head 1916 specimen is even harder to come by). The coin has a white, satiny luster, with burnt umber toning accentuating the design’s relief.
David Lawrence Rare Coins offers an estimate of $18,750, while at the time of publication the current bid is $16,000. Expect a fight for this one.
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If you like what you see here, be sure to check out the rest of the Top Hat Collection at David Lawrence Rare Coins. Remember, these are just the highlights; the sale also has plenty of type set quality coins to offer for most every budget. But you’d better hurry! Internet Auction #962 closes Sunday, May 28 at 9:00 pm Eastern.