What is a Quarter?

Three Different United States Quarter Dollars
Three Different United States Quarter Dollars. Images Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, www.ha.com and The United States Mint, www.usmint.gov

The quarter (short for "quarter dollar") is a U.S. coin with a denomination worth 25 cents, or 1/4 of a dollar; the formal name of this coin is a "quarter dollar." It has a diameter of 24.26mm (0.955 inches) and a nominal thickness of 1.75mm (0.069 inches). Quarters that are currently minted for circulation by The United States Mint are composed of outer layers of 75% copper and 25% nickel, with a core of pure copper.

Special coins specifically minted for coin collectors can be composed of 90% silver and 10% copper.

Types of United States Quarter Dollars

Quarter dollars were first minted in the United States in 1796. Since then, there have been ten different designs or types that have been used on the quarter. They are (with their years of issue):

  • Draped Bust; 1796 - 1807
  • Capped Bust; 1815 - 1838
  • Seated Liberty; 1838 - 1891
  • Barber; 1892 - 1916
  • Standing Liberty; 1916 - 1930
  • Washington; 1932 - 1998
  • Washington Bicentennial; 1976
  • 50 State Quarters; 1999 - 2008
  • D.C. and U.S. Territories; 2009
  • America the Beautiful; 2010 - 2019

History of the Quarter Dollar

The United States quarter dollar was authorized by the Mint Act of April 2, 1792. Although the United States Mint could have started producing them immediately, the first quarters were not produced until 1796. At that time the United States Mint did not produced coins on its own accord.

It waited for citizens to deposit bulk silver bullion on and then make specific coins at the request of the depositor. The Mint kept a small percentage of the deposit to cover its cost of manufacturing the coins.

The first quarter dollars produced in 1796 featured the Draped Bust design on the obverse with a small eagle on the reverse.

Normally, a large quantity of coins are produced in the first year of issue, but only 6,146 coins were produced that year. It wasn't until 1804 when quarters were produced again but this time with a heraldic eagle on the reverse.

In 1815 the design was changed to the Capped Bust which was design designed by John Reich. Production was intermittent during this time and mintage figures varied. In 1838 the quarter's design was changed to Christians Gobrecht's Liberty Seated motif. Although several minor design changes were implemented over the years, production was quite consistent until it was last produced in 1874. The only exception during this time frame was the period during the Civil War.

Charles E. Barber's Liberty Head quarter began its production run in 1892. These coins were continuously made through 1916 when a sweeping revision of almost all United States coinage took place. This led to the classic Standing Liberty quarter designed by Herman A. MacNeil that began in the later part of 1916. The first Standing Liberty quarters produced featured an effigy of Lady Liberty holding a shield with her right breast exposed. Although it is contested, some people objected to this design and in 1917 the design was further modified to place a coat of chain mail on Lady Liberty.

In 1932 the Washington quarter made its debut as a commemorative coin. Although the United States was in the throes of a depression, people gladly accepted this new coin design. Because of the Great Depression no quarters were produced in 1933. However, when production resumed in 1934, the U.S. Treasury Department decided to keep using the commemorative Washington design is a regular circulating coin.

Since then, George Washington has been featured on the United States quarter. In 1976 a circulating commemorative coin for the United States Bicentennial was featured. In 1999 the 50 State Quarters Program began and in 2010 the America the Beautiful Quarters Program took over.

America the Beautiful Quarters - Silver Bullion

The largest coin ever made by the United States Mint is the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Quarter.

Although this coin has a face value of twenty-five cents, it is composed of five troy ounces of .999 pure silver. It was never intended to circulate as a quarter, but to be sold to coin collectors and investors who want to buy silver bullion.

Example Usage

You need four quarters to equal the value of one U.S. dollar.

Edited by: James Bucki