As of 11/7/2022, the face value of a silver quarter is $3.43, with silver currently valued at around $20.41 per ounce. To determine the collector grade and identify the most desirable silver Washington quarters, a step-by-step process should be followed.
1. Step 1: | Date And Mintmark Are Identified
In 1932, the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth was commemorated with the release of a new Washington quarter. The obverse of the coin features a detailed bust of Washington, with his hair knotted in the back. The reverse depicts an eagle with its wings extended, perched atop a bundle of arrows symbolizing resolve and power, accompanied by two olive branches representing peaceful intentions.
Mints And Mintmarks Of The Silver Washington Quarter Series
Washington quarters from the first period (1932-1964) are highly sought after by collectors, due to their 90% silver composition. The wide range of grades and all date/mintmark combinations make them attractive to both novice and experienced collectors.
Mint state coins are the most sought-after coins, and their worth is determined by their original mintage levels. By identifying the mint mark, the value of these silver quarters can be narrowed down.
1.1 San Francisco Mint
The 1932 Washington quarter, minted in San Francisco, holds the record for having the lowest mintage of any year, with a total production of only 408,000 pieces. This figure is minuscule compared to the tens of millions of coins produced in subsequent years. As such, the condition of each early Washington quarter bearing the “S” mintmark should be carefully evaluated.
1.2 Denver Mint
Denver produced Washington quarters from 1932 to 1964, with the exception of 1938. Of these years, the two with the lowest mintage were 1932 and 1955. The 1955 coin is well-known among collectors for its limited mintage, even though it does not command a premium price. In total, Denver minted
approximately 1.7 silver Washington quarters.
1.3 Philadelphia Mint
The US Mint in Philadelphia is responsible for the production of both proof and circulating coins. The silver Washington quarter was minted between 1932 and 1964.
A date run of Philadelphia silver quarters is an intriguing and reasonably priced collection of silver coins, with only 1933 missing from the city’s 1.8 billion production.
Philadelphia did not include a mintmark on its currency during the early Washington quarter era. Coins minted by Philadelphia were identifiable by
the lack of a mintmark in the area above “ER” and under the olive branches on the reverse.
2. Step 2: | Grading Condition | Identify Collector Grade
The condition of Washington quarters has a significant impact on their value; collectors may be interested in a “Good” condition coin of an important date, even if it is heavily used. Conversely, coins in Mint State – i.e. brand new – condition are highly sought after, and those of higher grade offer the best value.
Prior to assessing the value of your Washington quarters, separate those that are heavily worn from those that are in better condition. Once this is done, you can compare them to the grading examples provided and use the coin value chart to determine their worth.
2.1 Washington Quarters Value Is Conditional
Pay close attention to the rim of the coin when assessing your quarters. A quarter in “Fine” condition is distinguished from one in “Good” condition by having a full rim and some hair detail on George Washington.
Coins exhibiting fine detail, minimal signs of wear, and some mint luster are classified as Mint State. Such coins may appreciate in value as collectibles.
2.1.1 Mint State Grade: Washington Quarter
Mint State coins are characterized by their pristine surfaces, with no signs of wear or mistreatment. The Mint State quarter is a perfect example,
exhibiting a flawless mint brilliance and an elevated cheek region below Washington’s eye that is free of any wear. The metal’s luster and texture
are also impeccable.
Located directly behind and above the ear are two high-profile locations, which exhibit no color dulling or metal smoothing. On Washington’s neck,
between the ear and the shoulder, an elevated feature may be observed. When in Mint State condition, the neck’s texture is uniform throughout both
high and low places.
Mint State grade coins are closely examined for wear-related smoothness, with particular attention paid to the high relief sections. The eagle’s wings are of particular interest, as any wear along the contour from the shoulders to the tips is easily identified by a change in color and texture
compared to the rest of the wing.
2.1.2 Extremely Fine Grade: Washington Quarter
The Extremely Fine grade exhibits light wear in the high spots, with a slight flattening of the hair details in front of and behind Washington’s ear. The wave of hair over the ear is slightly flattened on top, though only the tips of the hair details have been affected.
Washington’s hair is styled with a delicate touch at the top, while the larger waves create a dramatic effect.
The neckline of Washington’s portrait is beginning to lose its shape, evidenced by a slight flattening in the area above the date.
The reverse of this coin displays minor wear, obscuring some of the finer details of the eagle. The breast of the eagle no longer displays any feather details, though these delicate feather lines were originally not particularly bold. Despite this, the chest of the eagle remains rounded.
The legs of the figure have been smoothed at the top, eliminating the details of the leg feathers. The remainder of the legs remain spherical, while olive leaves remain bold and prominent at the tips of the wings.
2.1.3 Fine Grade: Washington Quarter
The Fine Grade of the portrait of Washington is characterized by its many flat sections. The top of his head displays smooth hair detail, with a few deeper lines still visible over the prominent rear curl.
Washington’s hairline is positioned just far enough away from his face, temple, and forehead to be visible. His chin and jaw are flat, with no discernible line between them.
The Eagle exhibits moderate wear, causing it to appear “faded”. Its head is connected to its legs, chest and large flat surface. The majority of the feathers in the wings are divided, though the lines are soft and fading. In some areas, the letters are beginning to blend with the rim, yet remain legible.
2.1.4 Good Grade: Washington Quarter
Washington’s image is prominently displayed, rising above the background. His hair is lacking in detail, with a smooth, flat section connecting it
to his face.
The letters “Liberty” remain legible despite being affixed to the rim, and the date is both legible and visible, also affixed to the rim.
Characteristics of a good grade include a full form of the wings despite the eagle’s generally flat shape, with one flat section making up the center. The legend should blend into the rim at the summits of the letters, and even when weak, they should remain legible. Central-wing feather features should still be present.
3. Step 3: | Special Qualities | Bullion To Collector Quarters
As of November 7, 2022, all silver Washington quarters are valued at a base rate of $3.43. However, any coin that surpasses this level of bullion is driven by collector demand. Consequently, there is potential for collector-level interest in many dates and mintmark combinations.
Silver Washington Quarters Value Is Developing
The Extremely Fine grade of the coin is the key determinant in distinguishing its worth as either bullion or collector quality. As illustrated, the major and minor design features of the coin have been preserved to a greater degree in the Extremely Fine grade, thus increasing its value.
The Fine Grade coin is not as visually appealing as an Extremely Fine sample, and its quality is inferior. Despite being relatively inexpensive, collectors tend to favor higher-grade specimens.
Careful consideration should be given to the years between 1932 and 1945, excluding Extremely Fine specimens of a higher grade. These items should
be evaluated for their bullion quality.
Potential collectors have the opportunity to acquire coins of exceptional rarity and value, with early quarters bearing the mintmarks “D” and “S” often being highly sought-after. Such coins offer a great chance to surpass the status of a “common” coin.
Washington quarters are highly sought after due to their early dates and good silver value. Collectors should carefully examine their quarters to determine their worth.
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