Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the quarter had a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper.
The obverse design depicts an idealized form of Lady Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she held a pole surmounted by a liberty cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom. Liberty's right hand rests on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY. The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. Surrounding the design were Seven stars are to the left and six to the right (13 stars were representative of the original 13 states of the Union).
The reverse design features an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. On the outer periphery above the eagle is the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and just below the eagle design are the words QUAR. DOL. A mint mark for New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S) or Carson City (CC) is located at the bottom of the design below the eagle's claws. Coins minted at the Philadelphia mint carried no mint marks.
Though only one type coin is available for the series, there are quite a few of major varieties one can pursue to expand a collection.
- Variety 1 1838-1839 & 1840-O No Drapery Obverse
- Variety 2 1840-1853 With Drapery, weight 6.68 grams
- Variety 3 1853 Arrows at Date, Rays around Eagle on reverse, weight 6.22 grams
- Variety 4 1854-1855 Arrows at Date and no Rays, weight 6.22 grams
- Variety 5 1856-1865 With Drapery, weight 6.22 grams
- Variety 6 1866-1873 & 1875-1891 Motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" added to reverse
- Variety 7 1873-1874 Arrows at Date, weight 6.25 grams
|Arrows at Date||Rays|
General Market Notes
With 53 years of coin production, examples are available to collectors of all types.
For those on a small budget examples in a grade of Very Good to Fine should be no problem.
For years that may be potential sleepers look at the 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1887, 1888, 1889, and 1891-O issues. All these years had individual mintages less than 20,000 coins.
For the investor, the keys to the series (excluding proofs & errors) are the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, and 1873-CC issues. The semi-keys are: 1849-O, 1866, 1872-CC, 1872-S, and 1886.