The Liberty Seated Quarter was issued for a lengthy period of 53 years, which would only be surpassed by the modern Washington type issued half a century later. Throughout the long duration of the series, numerous design and composition changes resulted in an abundance of subtypes for collectors to pursue. The mintage levels for the series dipped to extraordinary lows at several points throughout the series.
The twenty five cent denomination was introduced after both smaller and higher denominations had already made their appearance within the early United States. Despite the utility of the quarter in the present day, in early America it was too large for every day commerce and too small for silver depositors to request.
The popular 50 State Quarters Program was launched in 1999 and began a resurgence in interest in coin collecting. During the course of the ten year series, fifty different quarters would be issued to represent each of the states of the union. The mintages for the Proof State Quarters were only a fraction of the massive numbers of quarters minted for circulation. These collector versions of the coins were only issued within certain collectible products offered by the United States Mint.
The obverse design of each State Quarter features a portrait of George Washington based on the work of John Flanagan. For the present series, William Cousins performed modifications to the original design. The reverse design of each quarter features a unique design representing each state. Over the years, the depictions have included important people or places associated with the state, outlines of the state map, or symbols related to the state.
The quarter dollar was redesigned, continuing the efforts first began by President Theodore Roosevelt to return our coinage to objects of artistic beauty. The new series would come to be known as the Standing Liberty Quarters and would begin with an incredibly low mintage first year of issue. Mintage levels were generally higher for the balance of the series. Assembling a complete collection can be a challenge due to the low mintage key date and several other issues which are particularly conditionally challenging in higher grades.
The Standing Liberty Quarter had two distinct designs during the course of the series, known as Variety 1 and Variety 2. The initial design features the full figure of Liberty standing within a gate adorned with stars and the motto “In God We Trust”. She holds an olive branch and shield, and has her breast exposed. The inscription “Liberty” appears above. The initial reverse design featured an eagle in flight with seven stars to the left and six to the right. Inscriptions read “United States of America”, “E Pluribus Unum”, and “Quarter Dollar”. Part of the way through 1917, the design was changed. Most noticeably, Liberty now wore a suit of chain mail, covering her breast. On the reverse, the stars were realigned, with five to each side and three below the eagle.
Near the end of the 19th century, a new design was adopted for the three smallest silver denominations. This included the Barber Quarters, which were struck from 1892 to 1916. Mintages across all issues vary, with the series marked by the presence of three significant key dates. For anyone trying to complete a set, these three coins are the most difficult or costly to acquire.
The obverse design of the Barber Quarter features the head of Liberty. She is facing right and wear a cap with most of her hair bound beneath. The cap has a laurel wreath and a band inscribed “Liberty”. The design is completed with “In God We Trust” above, the date below, and an arrangement of thirteen stars. The reverse design contains a heraldic eagle, with wings spread. The eagle had an olive branch, arrows, and shield, with a scroll in its beak reading “E Pluribus Unum”. The inscriptions “Untied States of America” and “Quarter Dollar” surround, with once again thirteen stars completing the design.