1932 was a seminal year for the US quarter.
The United States Mint had concluded the design process of the commemorative quarter destined to mark the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday and was ready to begin striking the coins by 1931. Released in 1932, this design would soon become one of the most recognizable around the world and continue with only minor changes for 67 years until 1999 when the Mint began the 50 State Quarters series. Despite this long-term success, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression and the economy simply was not able to handle the total mintage produced over 1932 across all mints: 5,404,000 in Philadelphia; 436,800 in Denver; and 408,000 in San Francisco.
Interestingly, the mintage numbers from Denver and San Francisco were initially tied to the number of quarters collectors bought from the Mint. Since demand seemed to falter after 15,000 to 20,000 coins, the Treasury Department ordered continued striking at these facilities. However, because these coins were not considered especially beautiful, they were not collected by wealthy numismatists. Also, since their face value was too high for the average individual to collect, it seems that many examples were eventually put into circulation, which has resulted in a scarcity of coins in MS-65 or higher.
It wasn’t until World War II and later that demand for these coins truly started to grow. At this time, many examples that survived in mid to high grades were pulled from circulation.
In fact, while the 1932-S has a slightly lower mintage than the 1932-D quarter, they are slightly more common. Perhaps this is due to collectors initially saving the 1932-S at a slightly higher rate. Regardless, since both dates are relatively easy to acquire in lower grades, condition is the important factor.
The 1932 D Washington Quarter in Today’s Market
Considered the key date in the Washington quarter series, estimates on the coin’s survival rate vary. PCGS Coinfacts estimates that there are only 44,000 examples. This is based on a mathematical model and not an hands on survey of actual pieces. We estimate that the majority of surviving examples would fall in the Good-6 or below grade range and that the number of surviving Mint State examples are likely well below PCGS’ published rate of 650 at MS65 or better. To date, only 126 of these certified examples exist in MS-65 and above with 100 graded by PCGS and 26 graded by NGC. Additionally, the highest certified grade given by either firm is MS-66, with only two certified examples, both of which were graded by PCGS.
In low grades (between P and G), examples sell for between $50 and $70. Slightly higher graded examples (VF) sell for between $100 and $200 and can be found regularly online or in auctions. While pieces certified as About Uncertified are worth between $300 to $800, the value starts to climb for Mint State examples. Even in low Mint State (MS-61 – MS-62), examples sell for $1,000 to $1,200. In mid-Mint State (MS 63 – 64), examples sell for $1,500 to $3,000, and in higher grades the price skyrockets. In MS-65, auction prices range from $7,000 to $15,000, and in MS 65+ examples can sell for $20,000 to $30,000.
The auction record for this type, an example graded-MS66 sold for $143,750 in the April 2008 Bowers & Merena sale. However, this same coin was sold by Heritage Auctions in their January 2018 sale for $74,400. The only other example graded MS-66 by PCGS sold by Heritage Auctions for $82,250 in 2015 and again by David Lawrence Rare Coins for $64,500 in 2020.
Designed by John Flanagan, the obverse of the 1932-S Washington quarter is based on a bust of the general created by the neoclassical French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. However, Flanagan’s design differs from the original bust in several ways, such as a slightly different head shape and several curls of hair that are not on the bust; for comparison, the bust can be viewed at the late president’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Under the left-facing bust’s chin is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The legend LIBERTY runs along the top of the coin’s field and the date 1932 below. In small letters, Flanagan’s initials “JF” can be found above the “2” in 1932 at the base of the bust.
Unlike the obverse, there were no restrictions placed on the candidate sculptors when designing the Washington quarter reverse. Flanagan’s reverse is dominated by a heraldic eagle with outstretched wings and a left-facing head. The eagle is perched on a neat bundle of arrows with two intertwined olive branches below and the “D” mintmark centered between the two olive branch stems. Above the eagle can be read the two main inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. Finally, at six o’clock on the design is the denomination written out as QUARTER DOLLAR.
The edge of the 1932-D Washington quarter is reeded.
Born in New Jersey in 1865, John Flanagan lived in New York for most of his life. He began working with Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1884 at the age of 20 and quickly became a well-known sculptor and medallic artist in his own right. Saint-Gaudens made introductions for Flanagan at the United States Mint. While the Washington quarter was his sole numismatic design, Flanagan designed numerous famous medals and sculptures, including the official medal of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the official Verdun medal gifted to France by the United States Government, and the 1924 bust of Saint-Gaudens. Flanagan was also a member of the American Numismatic Society (ANS).
|Year Of Issue:||1932|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||John Flanagan|
|REV Designer||John Flanagan|