The Seated Liberty Quarter was one of the mainstays of our circulating coinage for over fifty years. Coined at Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City mints, they were issued annually from 1838 to 1891. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the development of the Seated Liberty Quarter series parallels that of the Seated Liberty Dime and Half-Dollar. In all, six design types were used over the lifetime of the series. These include:
- 1838-1840 Liberty Seated, No Drapery Type
- 1840-1853, 1856-1866 Liberty Seated, No Motto Type
- 1853 Liberty Seated, Arrows and Rays Type
- 1854-1855 Liberty Seated, Arrows Only Type
- 1866-1873, 1875-1891 Liberty Seated, With Motto Type
- 1873-1874 Liberty Seated, With Arrows Type
In 1853, arrows were added on each side of the date and rays surrounding the eagle on the reverse were added to the coin to signify a reduction in the coin’s weight and silver content by approximately 7%. Over 16 million coins were struck in 1853, easing the demand for gold dollars at the time. Although the Arrows and Rays quarter is popular with Variety collectors and thus more expensive than other, lower mintage issues, it is not difficult to locate.
The Mint produced large numbers of Seated Liberty Quarters between 1853 and 1862, however, once the Civil War became imminent, production dropped markedly. Nearly all coins were hoarded, while greenbacks (and other paper currencies) flooded the North. From 1864 through 1870 production didn’t exceed 100,000 coins at any single mint, and large scale minting of coinage wasn’t made until specie payments were made again in 1876.
The weight of subsidiary silver coinage didn’t increase until 1873. Once again, arrows were added to each side of the date to signify the change. These changes were necessitated by the disruptive effect the Western gold and silver discoveries of the period between 1845-1875 had on the value of precious metals.
Like the Seated Liberty Dime series, collecting Seated Liberty Quarters is a challenging task. There are over 100 date and mintmark combinations and with the exception of the extremely rare 1873-CC without arrows, all are considered collectible. Particularly scarce are the San Francisco Mint issues of the late 1850’s and early 1860’s, the Carson City Mint issues between 1870 and 1873, and the Philadelphia Mint coins between 1879 and 1889.