Artist Gilbert Stuart, who is perhaps best known today for his portrait of George Washington on the one-dollar bill, was hired to create a likeness of Lady Liberty for use on a variety of coins, including the quarter. His model was a busty Philadelphia socialite named Ann Willing Bingham, and she appeared first on the Draped Bust dollar that was issued in 1795. It replaced the widely ridiculed Flowing Hair dollar of 1794.

Robert Scot, the mint’s chief engraver, was tasked to transfer Stuart’s sketch onto quarters and other coins. By all accounts, Scot did a poor job and Stuart was disappointed with the result. But in 1796, the nation had its first 25-cent piece. Only 6,146 quarters were minted that year, making this one of the most prized U.S. coins for collectors.

The so-called Draped Bust Quarters featured basically the same Lady Liberty on its obverse as the silver dollars, dimes, and half dimes from the period. Like those dimes and half dimes, these early quarters carried no mark stating their value—it was not until 1804 that "25c" was added to the coin’s reverse.

Demand for the coin was low because Spanish two-reale coins circulated widely and were worth the same as a quarter, even though they were lighter and contained less silver.

After that first 1796 minting, no quarters were struck again until 1804, when 6,738 quarters with a new Heraldic Eagle reverse were coined. This quarter typo featured 13 stars on its obverse, one for each of the original 13 colonies (the 1796 quarter had 15 stars, one for each state in the union at that time).

Greater numbers of Draped Bust Quarters were minted from 1805 to 1807. The 1806 quarters in which the "6" in 1806 has been struck on top of a "5" in 1805 is particularly prized. But people in the U.S. at the dawn of the 19th century still preferred two-reale coins for commerce—quarters were actually hoarded because of their higher silver content.

Production of quarters ceased until 1815, when the Capped Bust Quarter was coined. John Reich took over the quarter’s design. For the obverse, he created a new Lady Liberty weari...

This Capped Bust design lasted until 1831 (although coins were not minted every year), when William Kneass reduced the coin’s diameter to 24.3 millimeters, the size of the quarters we use today. At the behest of mint director Samuel Moore, Kneass also removed the motto on its reverse—Moore believed "E Pluribus Unum" was redundant to the words "United States," an opinion that prevailed until the Barber quarters were introduced in 1892.

Through 1838, hundreds of thousands of Capped Bust coins were struck, with almost 2 million coined in 1835. That’s one reason why prices for these quarters are modest compared to the ones that preceded them.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1796 Draped Bust Quarter Choice Vf Ultra Rarity Major Key Date1821 Capped Bust Silver 25 Cents Pcgs Au 531818 Capped Bust Quarter, Very Tough Choice Vf++ Better Date ** Free Shipping!1835 Capped Bust Quarter. Very High Grade Album Toning1834 Capped Bust Quarter. Very High Grade Album Toning1837 Capped Bust Quarter. Very High Grade Album Toning1834 Capped Bust Quarter. Au/unc 1833 Capped Bust Quarter 25c Xf 45 Ngc Certified1831 Capped Bust Quarter. Very High Grade Album Toning1837 Capped Bust Quarter. Very High Grade Album Toning1820 B.5 R5 Small 0 Capped Bust Quarter Pcgs G6, Rare Var Davidkahnrarecoins1831 Capped Bust Quarter Very High Grade1815 Capped Bust Quarter, Tough Early Silver, ** Free Shipping!1818 Capped Bust Quarter - 25c - Pcgs G041825 5/4 Capped Bust Quarter1835 Capped Bust Quarter Vf1836 Capped Bust Quarter Vf1834 Capped Bust Quarter ** Free Shipping!1818 Capped Bust Quarter Vf1828 Capped Bust Quarter Fine1834 Capped Bust Quarter ** Free Shipping!1833 Capped Bust Quarter ** Free Shipping!1819 Key Date Super High Grade Capped Bust Quarter 1831 Capped Bust Quarter - Small Letter Version - 90% Silver - Small Mintage1834 Capped Bust Quarter Higher Grade1833 Capped Bust U.s. 90% Silver Quarter 25 Cent Coin B2 Variety Fine+1818 Great Coin Highly Sought Capped Bust Quarter 1835 Capped Bust Quarter, ** Free Shipping!1835 25c Capped Bust Quarter Pcgs Vf35 Cac1924 U.s. Mint 50c Huguenot Commemorative Silver Half Dollar-bu1936-s U.s. Mint 50c Bay Bridge Commemorative Silver Half Dollar-unc1934 U.s. Mint 50c Daniel Boone Commemorative Silver Half Dollar-bu1835 Gem High Grade Capped Bust Quarter 1838 Highly Sought High Grade Capped Bust Quarter 1832 Capped Bust Quarter, Early Silver Type, ** Free Shipping!1818 Capped Bust Quarter ***vg Very Good+***1825/4 Capped Bust Quarter, Tough Early Silver Type, ** Free Shipping!1821 Us Capped Bust Liberty Quarter! Low Mintage! Old Us Coins!1815 Capped Bust Quarter, Better Date Early Silver, ** Free Shipping!1835 Capped Bust Quarter, Early Silver Type, ** Free Shipping!1834 Capped Bust Quarter Beautiful. Nice Hair And Reverse. Wow. No Reserve.1953 "arrows & Rays" Seated Quarter - Very Fine Condition