When you think of coins from the early 20th century, you would probably mention Buffalo Nickels, Mercury Dimes and Walking Liberty Half Dollars. What about Standing Liberty Quarters? These quarters were first minted at a time when the design of US Coins was changing, but people weren’t fond of them from the beginning. This was part of the reason that they would only last 15 years. Let’s find out more about the Standing Liberty Quarter.
The year was 1916 and the Barber Dimes, Quarters and Half Dollars were in their 25th year. By law, a coin’s design could be changed after 25 years without Congressional Approval. This was the perfect opportunity to make some changes. The results would be the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter and Walking Liberty Half Dollar.
The US Mint brought in the Commission of Fine Arts to assist in deciding on the new designs for the dime, quarter and half dollar. The Mint’s Chief Engraver, Charles Barber, submitted sketches from the Mint, but the Commission didn’t accept any of them. Instead, they would get sculptors like Adolph Weimann and Herman MacNeil to submit sketches. They would accept five sketches from Weinman for the dime, half dollar, and the reverse of the quarter. They also selected MacNeil to design the obverse of the quarter. Eventually, they decided MacNeil should design both sides of the quarter.
The identity of MacNeil’s model is not definitely known, but has been narrowed down to silent film actress Doris Doscher, professionally known as Doris Doree, and Broadway actress Irene MacDowell. Doscher would be known as the “Girl on the Quarter” for many years until 1972, two years after she passed away, when a newspaper reported it was actually MacDowell. To this day, there is no definite evidence which one it actually was.
MacNeil’s accepted obverse design shows the depiction of Liberty and her shield east toward Europe as they were in the middle of World War I. The United States wouldn’t enter the war until the following year. On her left hand, she is holding an olive branch. MacNeil’s designs depicted a peaceful image in a time of war. In fact, he would also submit a sketch for the future Peace Dollar, which ended up being designed by Anthony de Francisci. The reverse design would display the American Eagle flying right.
With preparations of the Standing Liberty Quarters delayed, 1916 Barber Quarters would be minted, and only 52,000 Standing Liberty Quarters would be minted that year. The quarters were finally released to the public in January 1917, including some 1916 issues.
There were changes made to the quarter in 1917 including the covering of Liberty’s breast, but it was not because of public anger or prudishness. MacNeil originally had two different obverses including one with dolphins, but when trying to combine both, it was becoming impossible to do. So, MacNeil made a new design covering Liberty’s breast with a chain mail shirt. At the same time, the reverse was also changed with three of the stars moved below the eagle and dots placed between QUARTER DOLLAR and UNITED STATES were removed.
There was another issue with the Standing Liberty Quarter. Like the Buffalo Nickel, the date would wear down fairly quickly. Starting in 1925, the year would be recessed on the quarter instead of raised which proved successful for the remaining years.
There were two things about the Standing Liberty Quarter that made it different from other coins:
- They would be the only regular issued 20th century coin where no proofs were minted.
- While the mint mark on most regular issued coins was on the reverse before 1965, the Standing Liberty Quarter’s mint mark was on the obverse. Only the Lincoln Cent and the 1916 and 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar had their mint marks on the obverse as well.
The Standing Liberty Quarter would be minted in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco from 1916 to 1930, with the exception on 1922. In the midst of the Great Depression, no quarters were minted in 1931. There was talk about having a commemorative for the Bicentennial of George Washington’s birth, but in the end, Congress passed an act to begin minting Washington Quarters in 1932, ending the production of the Standing Liberty Quarter.
There were only 52,000 1916 Standing Liberty Quarters minted, making it the ultimate key date of the series. This is definitely rarer than more popular key date coins like the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent and 1916-D Mercury Dime, and the value of it definitely shows. According to the 2019 Red Book, a 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter would be worth $3,000 in Good condition, $7,000 in Very Fine condition, and a low end Mint State condition would be worth $12,500.
Besides the 1916 Quarter, the 1927-D (976,000 minted) and 1927-S (396,000) would be easier key dates to obtain in circulation. In Good condition, they’re worth $15 and $35 respectively, and $75 and $325 in Very Fine condition. In Mint State 60 Condition, the 1927-D is reasonable at $225, but the 1927-S skyrockets to $4,000. The 1921 and 1923-S are also early key dates.
There are a few semi-key dates including the 1919-D and 1919-S.
In 2016, the Mint would release gold Mercury Dollars, Standing Liberty Quarters and Walking Liberty Half Dollars. They would mint up to 100,000 gold Standing Liberty Quarters and would use the Type 1 bare breast design. They would be minted at West Point.
Would you consider collecting Standing Liberty Quarters? I have two of them for my Type Set. Excluding the 1916, there would be 36 quarters to collect.
I would consider collecting quarters because they depict an era where silent film starts were worshiped so much that they held a place on the national currency. Isnt that something? Because usually its a president or someone political on money, not movie actors…. well I think that is fascinating. Too bad they stopped making them in 1972. But I would very much like to see one for myself up close. Where can you find these coins if they are not in rotation?
Actually, they stopped minting Standing Liberty Quarters in 1930 and replaced them with the Washington Quarter. That’s true that they were around during the silent film era. You can find these quarters at a coin store, coin show or even Ebay. Thanks for the comment Sophia!
Great article, very resourceful. I’m always learning something new every single day. So, this was definitely something useful.
I might consider collecting coins, speaking of coins I believe I have some half dollar coins.
I actually have 2 one dollar standing liberty coins and 5 half dollar standing liberty coins.
The coins I have now, I actually found in my parents house, but these coins were made between 1970-1995 altogether.
that being said, I’m not sure if they are worth much, do you think they would be worth much in the near future?
Thanks for the comment! The half dollar coins you probably have are Walking Liberty Half Dollars which came out the same time as Standing Liberty Quarters.
Most coins between 1970 and 1995 are not worth much right now, unless you find errors. Cents before 1983 have copper but the cost of copper has gone up so today’s cents are mostly zinc. Most coins after 1970 didn’t have silver, at least the ones in circulation. There were some coins like Eisenhower Dollars meant for collectors that had 40% silver.
If you do consider collecting coins, buy a Red Book. I mention it in my coin books page. The current one is for 2019 and gives you an idea of what coins are worth. I hope you do consider collecting in the future. Come back and let me know.