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Numismatic Research

  • Fallbrook 1853 Mint Set

    Fallbrook 1853 Year SetThe year 1853 represents an interesting time in our nation’s coinage.  With 30 different issues, nearly every denomination produced by the Mint is represented. Only two short lived series, the twenty cent piece and three dollar gold issues, are lacking from the 1853 roster. The year includes a couple one-year silver design types with the “Arrows and Rays” quarter and half dollar.  The gold issues include all denominations from Philadelphia and representations from each of the three branch mints: Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans.

    This carefully curated Year Set contains 27 of the 30 possible 1853 issues, along with two duplicates and a variety.  The Fallbrook collection focused on quality for the grade as well as eye appeal.  The resulting set has many green tag holders and other very conservatively graded specimens, many in affordable collector grades.

    Historical Background 

    From 1850 through 1875, more gold was discovered than in the previous 350 years combined.  The flood of the precious metal into the world market distorted the ratio between gold and silver prices. As gold prices declined, silver skyrocketed and the market prices of U.S. silver coins exceeded their face values. Melting became rampant and change for retail businesses dried up.  Merchants and bankers were forced to make change with three-cent silver pieces, heavily worn dimes and half dimes, and Spanish fractional silver.

    The Silver Coins of 1853

    The Coinage Act of February 21, 1853, was enacted to ease the hoarding and melting of circulating specie. It reduced the weight (and thus the silver content) of all the silver coins except the dollar and three-cent piece by approximately 7 percent.  9624470_revTo distinguish the new lower-weight coins, they were given distinctive designs.  For the quarter and half dollar arrows were placed at each side of the date, with rays emanating from behind the reverse eagle. The arrows were also added to the dimes and half dimes. The “rays” design format (for the quarters and half dollars) lasted only one year, with a reminder of the reduced weight carried on through 1855 in the form of arrowheads only.   Congress’ plan evidently worked and by early 1854, for the first time in U.S. history, there was an adequate supply of fractional coins for commerce.

    The Gold Coins of 1853

    The smallest coin in U.S. history also owes its existence to the California Gold Rush. The groundwork was laid for the gold dollar in the Carolinas and Georgia, where the nation’s first big gold rush took place in the early 1800s. That rush had a major impact on United States coinage, leading to the establishment of two branch mints in the region—in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in Dahlonega, Georgia—and a notable increase in the number of gold coins being produced by the U.S. government.

    The first gold dollars made were privately minted by German immigrant Alt Christoph Bechtler, who operated a jewelry shop in North Carolina. As gold dust and nuggets were the primary medium of exchange in the area, Bechtler offered to refine raw gold into coins.  By 1840, Bechtler and his family had turned out more than $2.2 million worth of gold coins, of which about half were gold dollars.25003698_rev

    The gold dollar didn’t take its place in the official U.S. coinage lineup, however, until 1849, when yet another gold rush—this one in California—provided the spark. The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 gave Congress the impetus to expand existing uses of the metal in U.S. coinage and find some new ones.   On March 3rd, 1849, Congress passed legislation authorizing not only gold dollars but also $20 gold pieces. Thus the nation’s smallest and largest regular-issue gold coins were born.

    By 1853, the U.S. Mints were producing all gold denominations except the $3 coin which didn’t begin production until 1854. The gold coins were in high demand and produced by Philadelphia as well as three branch mints. The value of silver had risen to be worth $1.06 in gold. And the early 1850’s saw the undervalued silver coins being melted and then sold for payment in gold coins. The gold coins were traded for silver coins, which were then melted and sold for gold. This practice, as mentioned earlier, dried up circulating silver coinages eventually leading to the Coinage Act of 1853.

    This offering, a year set from 1853, proves to be an interesting glimpse into one of nineteenth century numismatics' most prolific and varied years.

    To view all available selections from the Fallbrook collection, click here.


  • Buffalo Nickel Basics

    Buffalo Nickels A quick primer on the Buffalo nickel series.

    As a continuation of the drive to beautify the nation’s coinage that began with Teddy Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens revamping the gold denominations, all five minor U.S. coins received design upgrades between 1909 and 1916. In 1913, Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head nickel was replaced by the Buffalo nickel of sculptor James Earle Fraser, who formerly worked as Saint-Gaudens’ assistant. The obverse renders an authentic portrait of a Native American warrior facing right and the initial reverse (Type 1) depicts a bison on a raised mound.  As the words “FIVE CENTS” were quickly showing wear on the initial design, a modification (Type 2) removing the mound was made by Charles Barber.

    Over 1.2 billion Buffalo Nickels were minted at three Mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.  Circulation strikes were issued from 1913 through 1938.  In most years they were struck at all three active Mints, but none at all were produced in 1922, 1932 and 1933.  Additionally, Denver didn’t mint any for the years 1921, 1923, 1930 and 1931.  The Philly mint struck no nickels in 1931 and the final year, 1938.  And San Francisco didn’t create any in 1934 or 1938.  The 1938-D/S was produced when it was decided that Buffalo nickel dies would not be sent to San Francisco during the issue’s final year.  Reverse dies earmarked for San Francisco were instead repunched with D’s and produced in Denver.  There are a total of 64 regular issues spanning 23 production years.

    Proofs were struck from 1913 until 1916 and again in 1936 and 1937. Mintages range from a low of 600 for the 1916 to a high of 5,769 for the final proof issue in 1937.  (In the late 1980s, five 1927 so-called Specimens were also discovered.)  Proofs from 1913 to 1916 display a matte finish and exhibit a slight granularity and frostiness.  For the most part, this style was not favored by collectors, and mintages declined steadily due to weak demand.  After a twenty year hiatus, Proof sales resumed with the more traditional “brilliant” or reflective style, which was much more favorably received.  There are actually two different Proof varieties in 1936: The Type 1, Satin finish, which is semi-prooflike; and the Type 2, Brilliant finish, which is more highly mirrored and reflective.  The 1937 also features the Brilliant finish.

    The Buffalo nickel has been resurrected not once, but twice – the first time as a 2001 commemorative silver dollar, and again in 2006 as a $50 gold bullion coin proving its enduring appeal. The series hailed from the time when renowned artists created some of numismatics’ all-time best designs.  We continually seek out high quality examples of this series, so if you are interested in collecting these beloved coins, check out our current selection.


  • The Brief Life of the Two Cent Piece

    2c Series A quick overview of the two cent series.

    The denomination, designed by James Longacre, was struck for a mere ten years from 1863 (patterns
in 1863, circulating coins beginning in 1864) until 1873. Prototype patterns dated 1863 and early 1864 Proofs were struck with a small letter legend. The first business strikes of 1864 were produced from dies made from the same Small Letter variety hub.  A new hub with the Large Letter variety was used to make dies for the majority of the 1864 coins and for all subsequent dates of the denomination.

    During the first couple years of the Civil War, virtually all U.S. coinage vanished from circulation. Hoarders, speculators and frightened Americans set aside every gold, silver and even base-metal coin they could obtain.  Starved for coinage of any kind, Americans embraced the Two-Cent piece when it made its debut. Acceptance and mintage levels fell off dramatically after the war, however, as other coins made their way back into circulation. Fewer than 3.2 million Two Cent pieces were struck in 1866 and by 1870 production dropped precipitously below the one million mark. Business strikes hit rock bottom in 1872, when the Mint issued only 65,000 pieces for circulation. Finally in 1873, only proofs were produced. In all, the Mint coined just over 45.6 million business strikes and just over 7,000 proofs. Proofs were struck in each of the series’ 10 years.

    Despite its failure as a medium of exchange, the Two-Cent piece made an enduring contribution to the nation’s coinage history as the coin that introduced the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Until then, U.S. coinage had carried no reference to a higher power. That change was largely attributed to the religious fervor created by the Civil War.

    Due to its short duration and absence of great rarities, this is a set that many collectors can complete by date (especially considering that only one mint—Philadelphia—produced this coin).  The Proof set is sometimes assembled with ten coins (one of each date), eleven coins (both varieties of the 1873) or twelve coins (including the extremely rare 1864 Small Motto). In addition, the set can be assembled in Brown, Red & Brown, Red or a combination of the three. We recently acquired a lovely group of six of the ten proof dates along with one business strike. All are gem quality Red-Brown examples, which represent terrific bargains compared to their full Red counterparts.

    Take a look…or two!

  • Book Review - Morgan Dollar, by Michael Standish

    morganbook_smallerLast month Whitman Publishing released the new book, Morgan Dollar – America’s Love Affair With a Legendary Coin by Michael “Miles” Standish. At the recent Whitman Baltimore Summer Expo, I received a copy and had a chance to read it on my long trip back west.

    Standish does an excellent job bringing the story of the Morgan dollar to life. His book is filled with great information and colorful illustrations. He is able to relate a quick historical background giving the reader a great sense of the times and circumstances that surrounded the inception and the continued production of the famed silver dollar. His nutshell explanation of the acts and economics that brought to life American numismatic's most popular series condenses the information into an entertaining and quick read.

    Standish dives into the silver dollar market giving a quick study of the early markets, while touching on the personalities and numismatists whose collecting and promotion of the series were instrumental in creating the vast silver dollar market that exists today.

    The book’s date analysis gets away from the dry statistical reporting of facts and gives instead a coin by coin story illustrated wonderfully with the Cardinal Collection examples. It reads like a diary of Morgan's great design and the factors that went into each year at Philadelphia and the branch mints. He’s able to touch on pertinent facts unique to individual dates and still keep the overall picture in sight.

    Morgan Dollar is a must read for the beginner collector. It should be added to the reading list of even the most experienced dollar aficionado. The most knowledgeable within the series will enjoy and likely gleam a bit of extra information and dive deeper into the lore surrounding the great cartwheel dollars.

    I suggest picking up a copy and submersing yourself in what is essentially a life and times account of one of American Numismatics most storied series.

  • The Highly Collectible Walking Liberty Half Dollar

    Originally published in the June 10th, 2011 edition of the CDN Monthly Supplement

    By Kathleen Duncan

    The United States didn’t always place a priority on its numismatic artistry.  Early mint officials primarily focused on the mechanics of production and uniformity in design.  Charles Barber’s designs, for example, were practical and easy to manufacture.  According to Teddy Roosevelt, however, they were aesthetically unfit for our great nation.  The coinage redesigns that began in his presidency vastly outshined the beauty of their predecessors.  From 1907 to 1921, the appearance of every United States coin changed.  Each was given a unique design with the exception of the Quarter and Half Eagles, which shared Bela L. Pratt’s innovative incuse design.  This individuality was an appreciated departure from previous eras where all our silver coinage shared one design and our gold denominations another.


    Design talent was recruited from outside the mint with competitions in 1907 for the gold and 1916 for the silver, with the Lincoln cent (1909) and Buffalo nickel (1913) in between.  One of America’s best young sculptors, A. A. Weinman, who studied under Augustus-Saint Gaudens, won honors for both his dime and half dollar models.  His Walker design portrays Liberty striding left toward the rising sun with her right arm outstretched and her left cradling an olive branch.  She is draped in an American flag and wears a liberty cap atop her head.  A majestic eagle perched on a mountain crag appears on the coin’s reverse.  The design is so well loved, that for the last twenty-five years the mint has been using Weinman’s obverse to produce our Silver Eagle bullion coins.


    The Walking Liberty Half was produced over a 30 year time span. No serious changes were made to any of the design elements.  Mintmark position changes were made from obverse to reverse in the middle of production in 1917, providing two varieties from the branch mints.  Other than minor mintmark size changes (1928-S, 1934-D, 1941-2-S), many dates saw mintmark repunching[1], including the Eliasberg 1916-D which now resides in a PCGS MS67 holder.  Additionally, several dates from the 30’s and 40’s can be found with doubling on either obverse, reverse or mintmark.


    The design, though unquestionably beautiful, caused definite striking problems for the mints.  Problem areas are Liberty's left (right facing) hand and leg, her head and skirt lines and the eagle's breast and leg feathers. Sharply struck coins command and deserve substantial premiums. In an attempt to improve the striking characteristics of the design, some minor modifications were made by Chief Engraver George T. Morgan in 1918 and again by Assistant Engraver John R. Sinnock in 1937 and 1938. Unfortunately, none of the revisions helped.


    While mintage numbers were high through 1918 due to economic expansion during the First World War, production declined sharply in 1919, and was erratic for the next fifteen years.  No half dollars were produced at all in the years 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1930, 1931 and 1932.  Additionally, only San Francisco produced any in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1933.  These were coins with substantial buying power, enough to buy a loaf of bread, a quart of milk and a dozen eggs at the time.  So it didn't take huge quantities to fill Americans' needs, especially after the onset of the Great Depression.  The sporadic production and highly circulated nature of the coins lead to the creation of some serious numismatic rarities amongst the early dates.


    Patient collectors with ample funds can pursue the entire 65 coin set. Purchasing the dates from 1916 to 1929 takes considerable financial resources in high-grades, as these issues saw extensive commercial use and are much rarer than the later dates in the series.  Although we recommend both PCGS and NGC coins, it should be noted that NGC coins often trade at much lower tariffs than their PCGS counterparts.  This can be to the buyer’s advantage if purchasing at market levels, as often great coins can be acquired at notable discounts.  Because of the substantial difference in price between these two services, and potential confusion, prices within this article refer to PCGS coins exclusively.


    The most popular and affordable collecting strategy is the Short Set, comprising the twenty issues between 1941 and 1947.  Once finished with their Short Sets, collectors often expand to the Late Dates consisting of the final forty issues (1933 to the end of the series).  Another option is a Date Set, providing one example from each year, regardless of mint. For the most numismatically ambitious, varieties can be collected on 12 different issues. And last, but not least, the gorgeous run of proof strikings from 1936 to 1942 is a short yet sweet way to pursue this design.


    Early Years (1916-1929)

    There are over a dozen dates that enter the five figure category in the MS64 or MS65 level; the 1919-D is a $15,000 coin even in MS63, and the 1921-S is expensive in all uncirculated grades.  One strategy employed by many is buying before the major price jump.  It’s usually a good idea to begin buying the most difficult issues, as over time the Key dates tend to experience the greatest price appreciation.


    If attempting to buy the highest grades obtainable, finding many of the early issues above the MS65 level will prove difficult.  MS67s are practically nonexistent, with the 1919 showing a population of 5, the 1916 a mere 4, the 1916-D only 3, the 1917 but 2, and six other dates sporting 1 lone MS67 apiece (1916-S, 1917-S Obverse, 1918-S, 1923-S, 1929-D and 1929-S).



    1916-S:  Although MS65s trade with some frequency, this is a coin that is much more difficult to locate in MS66 than the population numbers suggest.  MS66s are currently trading at the $20,000 level, considerably above the published price guides.  None have crossed the auction block for half a dozen years.  The solitary MS67 was graded long ago during the “rattler” era.


    1919-D:  The undisputed key to the series in higher uncirculated grades and scarce in all grades.  If you don’t want to pony up six figures for a gem example, expect to pay a considerable premium for a well-struck MS64 as this issue is notoriously poorly struck.


    1919-S:  This has the second lowest mint state survival rate of the series due to heavy circulation along with a reduced mintage, causing even MS63s to approach the five figure range.  For those with ample funds, MS65s and MS66s are reasonably available.


    1921-S:  The key to the entire series and second only to the ’19-D in MS65 and higher grades.  Even in XF condition, this coin commands $5,000 as it is scarce in all grades.  One can conservatively estimate that fewer than 200 true mint state examples exist.   MS65s are exceptionally rare and there is but a single MS66 graded by PCGS.  Strike is a problem, and well-defined examples are valued at noticeable premiums.


    Middle Years (1933-1940)

    With the exception of the 1935-D, all of the dates in this subset exist in MS67, although five will be challenging to locate:  the 1934-D has but 2 MS67s, the 1934-S only 5, the 1935-S just 2, the underrated 1936-S a mere 6, and the 1940-S but 3.  If seeking out the very best, the 1939 and 1940 also have decent populations in MS68.  Four other dates have 1 or 2 MS68s as well:  1935, 1936, 1937, and 1939-S, but most of these have been put away by a couple advanced collectors and are unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.



    1935:  Although MS66s are relatively common, this date is surprisingly difficult to locate in MS67.  MS67s only appear in auction once every two to three years.  Expect to pay north of $5,000 to obtain one, 25% above price guide estimates.


    1935-D:  This key to the Late Date set is the worst struck coin of the middle dates, with examples displaying a well-rounded thumb and significant detail to Liberty’s hair and cap being nearly impossible to find.  Look for partial separation of the branches that Liberty holds and a bit of definition to Liberty’s head.  Flatness in the central obverse design is the norm, even on MS66s, and is probably why no MS67s exist.


    1940-S:  With this date begins a run of San Francisco mint coins with abysmal strikes and as I’ve placed each of the 3 MS67s at one point, I can state that 2 of the 3 had very little separation between the thumb and index finger.  One may have to settle for ample detail to Liberty’s head and a flattish hand on this one.


    Short Set Dates (1941-47)

    The 20 coin Short Set ranks with Carson City Morgan dollars as the most collected group of all US coins, and we don’t expect its desirability to diminish any time soon.  Recent increases in population figures of MS67 grades have created especially affordable prices (around $1,000 or less) on high-quality examples on the more plentiful issues.


    1941-S:  Commonly referred to as the classic rarity of the Short Set, population reports indicate the ’42-S and ’44-S are nearly as scarce in MS65 and slightly rarer in MS66 and MS67.  This is a date infamous for its poor striking quality.  Expect some weakness to Liberty’s hairline, skirt lines and left (right facing) hand.  A moderately good strike is about all you can expect here.

    1942-S:  This date has emerged as the condition rarity of the Short Set dates, with the lowest population in MS66 and a lone MS67 graded by PCGS.  Like all 1940’s S-Mint Walkers, this coin suffers from a soft strike.  Criteria for purchasing should include noticeable separation between Liberty’s thumb and index finger on her left hand along with good definition on her head, and on the eagle’s breast feathers.  Again, a reasonably good strike is as good as it gets.

    1944-S:  Although some numismatists may quibble, the 1944-S is likely the toughest short set coin to find with a full strike, typically more problematic on the obverse than reverse.  Separation of the thumb and index finger on Liberty’s left hand is a rarity.  Strong definition on her head and some distinction between her hand, thigh and the stem of the olive branch is obtainable; full striking detail is not.

    From its storied inception during the renaissance of America’s coinage, to its use on today’s silver eagles, the Walking Liberty has been a popular favorite.  The series has it all, from a beautiful design, to multiple subsets providing a wide variety of challenges.  It has the ability to keep even the most tireless collector occupied for a great many years.  Whether pursuing circulated examples or museum quality gems, you are certain to be charmed by this classic design which collectors and numismatists have cherished for nearly a century.



    Click Here To View Walker Inventory Selections


    [1] Until 1990, the U.S. Mint used to manually punch the mintmark into each individual coin die. Due to human error, occasionally a die would get two or more punches of the same mintmark. Although the mint usually caught these defective dies before any coins were produced from them, on very rare occasions a die would strike coins with multiple impressions of the same mintmark letter.

  • Classic Commemoratives—Highlighting America’s History

    Nearly half of our almost 100 newest purchases are Silver Commemoratives, since a long-time client with a great eye sent us his collection. So today’s missive is on this highly collectible series. Between 1892 and 1954 there were 50 different Silver Commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Since many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, the complete series is comprised of 144 issues. Majestic images portrayed by gifted sculptors highlight the milestones of America’s past, from the voyage of Columbus to the Monroe Doctrine to the Panama Canal.

    Commemoratives differ from regular issues as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than for circulation, although they are legal tender. Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in a nearly endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a Type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mint marks referenced above. Of course, you can also pursue groups of coins from various subsets, such as Civil War, California, New York, or Art Deco issues. You can also assemble complete sets of the 6 designs that were issued over several years and at three Mints, resulting in highly popular Specialty Sets where one of each date and Mint is obtained.

    Specialty Sets

    Arkansas (1935-39) 15 coins
    Boone (1934-38) 16 coins
    Washington-Carver (1951-1954) 12 coins
    Oregon (1926-1939) 14 coins
    Texas (1934-38) 13 coins
    Booker T. Washington (1946-1951) 18 coins

    Besides the many historical and aesthetic attributes and the countless collecting possibilities, one of our primary reasons for promoting this area is that prices are at small fractions of their highs. Seventy of the 144 issues have original mintages of under 10,000, yet a large percentage can be purchased in MS65 and higher grades for less than $500. Silver Commemoratives have wide reaching appeal as beautiful objects in their own right. We have placed many fabulous examples from this series over the past two decades, and continue to have a high quality selection that is second to no other dealer.

    To view all of our newest acquisitions, click here.

    To view all of our newest Silver Commems ONLY, click here.

    For a link to items in the world class Sounder collection, click here.

    We look forward to hearing from you or seeing you at next week’s Baltimore Expo.



  • The Sounder Collection

    Pinnacle Rarities is pleased to announce the acquisition of an especially high-grade classic commemorative set assembled by an astute collector.  This offering of nearly 50 spectacular quality coins includes 13 MS68s, 4 MS67+s, 24 MS67s and 3 MS66s along with one PR66CAM and a single PR65CAM gold commem. Among them are several contenders for finest known status, with populations of less than 5. Whenever possible our client chose coins that not only met his strict technical standards, but displayed fabulous color. Quite a few of these coins have famous pedigrees such as Hidden Liberty, JFS, Jewell, the San Diego Collection, and Bruce Scher.

    The collector responsible for this outstanding achievement lives in our own Puget Sound backyard, which only partially explains the name of the collection. The other, less obvious reason is his passion for the game of soccer and the name of the local MLS team, the Seattle Sounders. He began collecting coins almost 40 years ago in a somewhat typical fashion—pushing coins into blue Whitman albums. After a 15- year hiatus, he returned to the hobby in 1999 and began working on several top-notch collections. The sale of this set funds his passion in the two other areas of numismatics that he continues to pursue. It is our pleasure to make available this gorgeous assemblage from one of our favorite series.


    Click Here to View the Collection




  • December Newps Featuring Beautifully Toned Morgans and Much More

    2013 is winding down, but we are not slowing down our pace here in the office. We have added nearly 70 new coins this week and will have many more great coins coming in next week as well. Already posted online are nearly 15 beautifully toned Morgan dollars along with one phenomenal Proof. Amongst our newest acquisitions are high-grade Barber and Seated type, a few terrific Walkers, some wonderful classic commems, as well as a diverse array of other numismatic treasures. So take a peek at our new purchases page now but don't forget to check back frequently as we are posting new items almost daily. We look forward to hearing from you.


    Link to New Purchases

  • Business Brisk During and After Baltimore Show

    As a city that is within driving distance for many, Baltimore is routinely well attended by collectors.   We always enjoy visiting with the many who attend.  In fact, some are almost like family as we have such great long-term relationships with them.  As we always say, relationships are the key to our success.  While attending conventions such as the one last week are important from the aspect of buying and selling, they are just as important for building and maintaining relationships with collectors and dealers alike.   While at a typical show, we look through many thousands of coins to come home with 50-100 select items.  This would never be enough for us to successfully run our business.  Most of our inventory is purchased back at the office from our collector base.  Another substantial percentage is received from our dealer contacts between shows.  Since we've been back in the office this week, we have gotten several boxes of fantastic coins, far more than we were able to acquire in Baltimore.
    As we will be posting 25 or so new coins daily, check our inventory page often between now and early next week.  We have a bit of something for everyone.  Also, don't forget to update those want lists.  We were very successful in filling want lists in Baltimore, but as is often the case, some of the items wouldn't have made it into our inventory.  For example, one want list item was a rare date AU $10 Liberty, which is outside of what we usually handle.
    As Thanksgiving is just around the corner, a huge THANKS to all of you who make our jobs so rewarding by allowing us to handle some of the nicest rare coins on the planet.   We will continue to work hard to deserve your business and trust by finding fabulous coins at fair prices and ALWAYS buying back what we sell.
    May you and your family have a fantastic Thanksgiving and we look forward to hearing from you soon.


    Link to New Purchases

  • An Overview of the Standing Liberty Quarter Series - Part 2

    By Kathleen Duncan

    Standing Liberty Quarters were struck at the Philadelphia Mint from 1916 until 1930 with the exception of only 1922, when no quarters were produced at any Mint.  Strikings at Denver and San Francisco were more sporadic.  This is the only 20thcentury regular issue U.S. coin for which no Proof coins were produced.  Altogether, there are 37 regular issues as well as the 1918/7-S overdate, the most elusive date in the series.  While containing many challenges for the advanced collector, the other two most notable keys are the 1916 and the 1927-S, one of the foremost condition rarities in all of 20th century U.S. numismatics and the toughest date to find with a fully struck head.

    Particularly beginning with the Type 2 format (a redesign by Chief Engraver George Morgan mid-way through 1917) coins graded Full Head (FH) are much scarcer and more valuable than those lacking this feature.  To qualify, a coin must possess these attributes: the three leaves in Liberty’s hair must be visible; her hairline must be complete; and her ear indentations must be evident.  Other areas prone to striking weakness on some issues are Liberty’s right knee, the date, the eagle’s breast feathers, and the rivets as well as the center of the shield.

    stand lib heads Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 2

    For an in depth look at both historical and design details of this popular series, please refer to Part 1 of this articlePart 1 also contains collecting insights for the dates 1916 through 1918-S.  Here in Part 2, the article continues a date-by-date analysis beginning with the ever-elusive 1918/7-S and proceeding to the final issue, the 1930-S.

    1918/7-S: To help meet the high demand of the San Francisco Mint and the wartime economy, an old Type 2 1917-dated die was re-engraved with an 8 over the final digit in the date.  This practice was supposed to have been abandoned around the turn of the century, but once in a while it is still practiced, and usually results in a very low mintage.  The mintage figure of this quarter is unknown, but obviously miniscule. These pieces circulated freely, and were not discovered until nearly 20 years after they entered commerce. Accordingly few mint state survivors are known today, and it is one of the key silver rarities of 20th century numismatics.  Two notable characteristics can be found on these coins, struck from a single obverse die: a die clash in the area next to Liberty’s right knee, from the E in E PLURIBUS UNUM on the reverse; and a small dot of extra metal above and to the right of the last digit of the date.

    1917 stand lib kd Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 2The 1918/7-S is rare and relatively expensive even in the lowest grades. Mint state specimens are extreme rarities and specimens with fully struck heads are almost non-existent.  Combining the populations, there are a total of 136 PCGS and NGC graded uncirculated examples.  As a certain percentage of these are certainly resubmissions, it is likely less than 100 mint state survivors exist.  The two services have graded only 11 MS65 or better specimens (again a number certainly inflated) and none that have received the coveted Full Head designation.  The highest graded Full Heads are MS64s.  There are only 14 Full Head uncirculated examples in all grades combined on the population reports of the two major services.

    1919:  This is one of the most available issues in the teens in high-grade due to its mintage exceeding 11 million.  High quality examples with strong striking characteristics are among the most available for issues before 1925.

    1919-D: For unknown reasons the Denver Mint coinage of 1919, across all denominations, was poorly made, creating Key dates for the nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar.  Liberty’s head is almost always weak and the rivets along the left side of the shield are usually poorly defined.  Like its sister 1919-S coin, there are often interesting die breaks on the obverse around the date.

    1919-S:  Like the 1919-D of similar mintage, the 1919-S is a key to the series and rare in high-grade, particularly with full striking characteristics.    Rarity and price in high-grade examples with Full Head attributes run parallel with the 1919-D, both of which are quite a bit rarer than the more famous 1916.

    1920:  Even though the 1920 has the highest mintage of the entire series (more than double any other issue) its availability in the better grades of uncirculated is surprisingly low.  The government’s need for 27.8 million quarters this year overwhelmed the usually competent production staff in Philadelphia making Full Heads surprisingly scarce.  It was another situation where quantity ruled over quality.

    1920-D: In high-grade, particularly with Full Head attributes, this ranks amongst the most challenging of issues in the series.  Most examples display striking weakness at the top of the date and the third and fourth rivets are usually missing from Liberty’s shield.

    1920-S:  Taken as a whole, the Roaring Twenties witnessed some of the poorest produced coins in the history of the San Francisco mint.  This is true not just of the Standing Liberty quarters, but also of the nickels, dimes and half dollars produced at the time.  Both obverse and reverse almost always display weak strikes, making it one of the top strike rarities in the series, eclipsing even the 1919-D and 1919-S.  It is second only to the 1927-S in terms of fewest high-grade survivors, with and without Full Head status.  The elusiveness of Gem quality and finer Full Head examples has lead to pricing pressure on non Full Heads as well, particularly in the upper uncirculated grades.

    1921:  A relatively low mintage (1,916,000) may account for the fact that mint state survivors are usually well-struck.  However, whereas many Standing Liberty quarters display striking softness through the top of the date, the 1921 displays this feature along the bottom of the digits.  The first and second 1 in the date are slightly different when compared to other issues, leading some to believe that the design was again modified in this year, as was absolutely the case with the 1921 Walker.

    1923:  Albeit a high mintage issue, this date is quite scarce in Gem, Full Head condition.  Although the San Francisco issue of this year gets much more recognition as a Key date, in gem and finer Full Head condition, this coin has far fewer examples graded. As it sells for a fraction of the price, this issue should be considered a sleeper.  When found, high-grade survivors can be located with razor sharp striking detail.

    1923-S:  This date is elusive from the standpoint of both absolute and condition rarity.  It is more available than one would expect, however, and is perhaps one of the more over-rated dates in the series.  Gem and finer examples, even with Full Head details, trade relatively frequently.

    1924:    As if foreshadowing the date modification the following year, the 1924 was one of the most poorly produced issues in the entire series.  Furthermore, the obverse die cracked early in production, resulting in most mint state survivors missing the top portion of their dates.  Although over 10 million coins were produced, Gem and better examples are not easy to acquire.  This is another relative sleeper in MS66FH and better conditions, although prices are beginning to escalate.

    1924-D:  As was the case in Philadelphia this year, this Denver issue was also one of the worst produced in the series.  Many examples come weakly struck, not only on Liberty’s head but on the date and shield rivets.  It is not uncommon to find the top third or half of the date missing from a broken die.  This is a date that has many survivors in uncirculated condition, even in very high-grade, but almost all are Flat Heads.  Full Heads are quite rare in Gem and finer.

    1924-S:  Nearly 3 million were minted but the vast majority were poorly produced.  Full Head examples are rare but the striking problems did not stop with Liberty’s head, as the shield detail is also typically abysmal, as are the eagle’s feathers on the reverse.  The lack of availability of Full Heads has lead to Flat Heads in the higher uncirculated grades commanding strong prices.  A mere dozen MS66FHs have been graded between PCGS and NGC combined, a surprisingly low number for a date not recognized as a Key.

    1925: The date positioned on the first step of the passway was one of the designs highest features and wore away quickly, leading to the entire area of the first step being recessed in 1925.  This was a high production issue with a mintage of over 12 million, so not surprisingly examples grading up to MS66FH are readily available.

    1926:  This issue is poorly produced by Philadelphia standards.  Although over 11 million were minted, a low percentage of those display strong striking characteristics.  Finding Gem and finer examples in Full Head, while not especially difficult, is harder than one would think given the high mintage, the Philly Mint’s usual better attention to detail, and the previous year’s design change.

    1930 stand lib kd Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 21926-D:  This is one of the rarest issues of the series in Gem Full Head and finer conditions, although locating an example that is high-grade with a Flat Strike is extremely easy.  Indeed, it is branded as the classic Flat Head of the series by Standing Liberty Quarter specialist J. Cline. The reverse strike also proves problematic, with typical examples displaying few, if any feathers on the eagle’s wings.

    1926-S:  This issue is several times rarer than its already elusive Denver cousin.  The San Francisco mint had problems striking up any coin designs in the twenties, and the 1926-S quarter is no exception.  Besides displaying weakness on Liberty’s head, her shield and the eagle’s breast feathers are notoriously soft.  The third and forth rivets are always missing from the shield.

    1927:  Although not as common as the 1929 and 1930, this issue was well produced in high numbers, with a mintage of nearly 12 million.  Finding a high-quality example, while not necessarily easy, is not overly challenging.  However, finding a superb Gem with Full Head details, is a feat, as it is with nearly all but a handful of dates in this challenging series.

    1927-D: Although this issue and its famous San Francisco sibling are the only ones in the series boasting mintages of less than a million besides the 1916, it is surprisingly easy to locate a high quality example, up to and including coins at the Gem, Full Head level.

    1927-S:  With only a paltry 396,000 produced, the 1927-S is the premier rarity among the regular issue Standing Liberty quarters.  It is even rarer than the 1916, even though almost eight times as many coins were struck since it wasn’t saved in the substantial way witnessed by the first date of the series.  The 1927-S is one of the foremost condition rarities in all of 20th century U.S. numismatics and aside from the overdate, the most expensive of all Standing Liberty quarters.  Even Flat Head examples in mint state command considerable sums.

    1928:  This date is amongst the most common, and is readily available in all grades Flat Head and Full Head, up to MS66FH.  The obverse and reverse of this issue are amongst the better struck in the series.  As with nearly every Standing Liberty quarter it becomes rare at the MS67FH level.

    1928-D:  This issue was poorly produced and the striking characteristics tend to be weak in all of the usual problem areas.  Accordingly Full Head examples bring strong premiums and are fairly elusive.

    1928-S:  Large and small mintmark varieties of this year exist, with the small mintmark being three to five times rarer according to J. Cline.  The small mintmark is further to the right and down toward the date and does not touch the star.  This issue is relatively common and easy to acquire up to the MS67FH level.

    1929:  This is the second most common issue in the series behind the 1930.  All grades up to MS66FH are readily available and reasonably affordable, making it a popular choice for type collectors.

    1929-D:  The mintage of 1,358,000 coins was the fourth lowest of any date and mintmark issue in the entire Standing Liberty quarter series. The low production in combination with the typical poor strike of Denver Mint issues during the ‘20s makes the 1929-D is an important condition and strike rarity.  Gem and higher examples with Full Head details are elusive, although not as rare as several of the Denver and San Francisco issues from earlier in the decade.

    1929-S: This issue was better produced than any other San Francisco issue from the ’20s, and finding high-quality examples should not be a problem.

    1930:  This is the most readily available of all issues in the series, except for the 1917 Type 1.  Strike is not a problem, nor is finding an example in any condition.  It is most often the type collector’s issue of choice.

    1930-S:  While not as well produced as its Philly counterpart, this date is still easy to acquire in any condition, albeit with weaker striking attributes, particularly on Liberty’s head and the inner shield, as well as the third and fourth shield rivets.

    The Standing Liberty quarter was discontinued in 1931, a year in which no quarters were struck.  Although the Law of 1890 mandated that coinage designs should not be changed more often than each 25 years, the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth in 1932 seemed an important enough event to issue what was conceived as a one-year commemorative quarter.   The Washington quarter, obviously, ended up continuing as a regular issue.   MacNeil’s Liberty, carrying both shield and olive branch, is a poignant reminder of a time when the United States was on the brink of joining the Allied Forces in the World War that had begun in 1914.  Although it was produced for a mere 15 years, it remains one of American numismatics most beloved.

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