In the grand scheme of things, the recession of 1958, which has come to be known as the “Eisenhower Recession“, was relatively minor. Even though it was the most significant economic downturn between 1945 and 1970, the recession lasted only eight months and was mostly negated by strong economic growth starting in May 1958.
However, since the recession began in the latter part of 1957, it directly influenced the United States Mint’s predictions of coin demand. As a result, the Philadelphia Mint struck only 6,360,000 quarters, an 86% decrease from the 1957 issuance of 46,532,000 coins. This reduced mintage makes the 1958 the second-lowest mintage of the Philadelphia Washington quarter issuances, and the 16th lowest in the entire series.
Additionally, in 1958, the Philadelphia Mint also reported large decreases in cent production, nickel production, dime production, and half dollar production.
Nevertheless, Mint Set sales were seemingly not affected too badly by the economic downturn. While 1957 sales slumped slightly, in 1958 they hit a high of 50,314 sets. This was actually the largest number sold by the Mint since 1947. Collectors could purchase these for $4.43 per set, $0.79 above face value (this equates to $45.50 when adjusted for inflation). Many of the highest-graded examples, often with distinctive toning as a result of the packaging’s sulfur content, come from these sets. Today, they can often be acquired for between $115 and $150.
Interestingly, the Mint also struck a number of Type B reverse quarters in 1958. These dies were actually retired proof dies and subsequently, the coins may appear proof-like.
The 1958 Washington Quarter in Today’s Market
When the Mint’s monthly reports revealed this dramatic downswing in production, both collectors and dealers scrambled to purchase as many examples as possible directly from the Mint as well as quickly pulling them from circulation. As a result, thousands of Uncirculated and Mint State rolls were preserved. This is backed up by the major grading services, as the type has a lopsided population. In fact, only 20 examples have been certified in any condition lower than Mint State. These submitters must have been extremely disappointed, as in lower grades the 1958 is only worth the silver value of roughly $3.25 – much less than the grading fee. It isn’t actually until MS 64 that it becomes economically viable to submit this type for grading.
At the time of original writing, coins graded MS 64 are worth between $25 and $30. This price holds relatively stable through MS 66. Even nicely toned examples with full mint luster and high eye appeal are worth between $30 and $35. While MS 66+ examples generally sell for slightly more, one “problem-free” example with relatively unattractive spotty gray obverse toning was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2019 for an abnormally high hammer price of $210. Interestingly, there have been a series of eBay sales over the past year of examples in all of these grades (MS 64 – MS 66) that have totaled less than $20 per coin.
It is in MS 67 that the price regularly jumps to three figures. For example, Heritage Auction sold one such coin for $336 in August 2022. This example, with a relatively weak strike, does, however, display spectacular reddish-yellow fading into blue obverse toning and rainbow reverse toning. However, many examples still sell on eBay for as low as $40 to $50. This is because the 1958 is one of the easiest types of the series to locate in these high grades.
With only 85 MS 67+ examples graded by both NGC and PCGS, the type quickly becomes quite rare once it hits this grade. What limited examples there are usually auctioned for between $500 to $950, and sell for roughly $400 on eBay. The only public sale record of an MS 68 was from the Bowers & Merena Galleries April 2008 Chicago Rarities Sale, where the coin sold for over $4,000.
Designed by John Flanagan, the obverse of the 1958 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 (1958) below. In small letters, Flanagan’s initials “JF” can be found above the “8” in 1958 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. 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 1958 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, and the 1924 bust of Saint-Gaudens. Flanagan was also a member of the American Numismatic Society (ANS).
|Year Of Issue:||1958|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||John Flanagan|
|REV Designer||John Flanagan|