It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 decades since the eagle appeared on the reverse of the Washington Quarter. The Washington Quarter would have the same design for the first 62 years (except 1976). The Washington Quarter has been minted since 1932 and was almost stopped in 1964. With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, it was considered to put him on the quarter, but First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy didn’t think that Washington should be taken off the quarter. So, here is a brief history of the early years of the Washington Quarter.
In 1930, a second commission was created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, first President of the US. Washington’s bicentennial would occur on April 22, 1932. One of the ideas to celebrate Washington was putting him on a coin. Unfortunately, this was happening during the Great Depression. The Peace Dollar hadn’t been minted since 1928 and with little demand, there was no thought of starting them again until 1934. One idea was to create a Washington Commemorative Half Dollar and replace the Walking Liberty Half Dollar in 1932. Like the Peace Dollar, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar hadn’t seen the light of day since 1929 before the depression and would reappear in circulation in 1933.
Against what the commission wanted to do, it was decided in 1931 to put Washington on the quarter. The Standing Liberty Quarter had been minted between 1916 and 1930. This quarter was difficult to produce and its design was not very favorable. In fact, like the Buffalo Nickel, the Standing Liberty Quarter would get worn down fairly quickly. So worn, that the date would be gone or unrecognizable. This was a chance to change the design on the quarter and commemorate Washington at the same time.
There would be a competition for the best design and the winner was John Flanagan. The obverse would be a profile of a bust of Washington designed by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. Liberty shown on top, In God We Trust on the left side and the date on the bottom. On the reverse is an eagle with wing spread across the sides, perched on arrows with olive branches below. The 1934 Philadelphia Quarter would have both a light motto and heavy motto as well as a double die variety. From 1932 to 1964, they were 90% silver with the mint mark on the reverse below the olive branches. From 1965 on, the quarters were clad (copper nickel) and the mint mark was the obverse to the right of the bottom of Washington’s hair.
Most of the Washington Quarter key dates would occur during the first decade of mintage. The rarest dates are the 1932-D and 1932-S with mintages of 436,800 and 408,000 respectively. Although the 1932-S is rarer, there have been less uncirculated 1932-D quarters found. So the value of the 1932-D uncirculated quarters are double the 1932-S. Other key dates include the 1934-D, 1935-D, 1935-S, 1936-D, 1936-S, 1937-D, 1937-S and 1940-D.
With the 200th Anniversary of the Unites States in 1976, the mint had three different designs for the Washington Quarter, Kennedy Half Dollar and Eisenhower Dollar. The reverse of the Washington Quarter had a military drummer with a torch to the left of him with 13 stars around it. San Francisco would mint the usually clad proof quarters as well as 40% silver uncirculated and proof quarters.
Start Collecting the Early Washington Quarters
Collecting from 1941 to 1998 would be easy to complete. For a challenge, add the early quarters from 1932 to 1940. The 1932-D is the toughest with values over $1,000 in low mint states and around $300 in Extra Fine condition. Something to consider if you want to collect a modern set.