In 1835, when it was time for the U.S. Mint’s new engraver, Christian Gobrecht, to redesign the quarter and other coins, he chose to seat Lady Liberty on a rock. In her left hand, he placed a pole topped by a Liberty cap, a symbol during that era of freedom. Leaning against the rock and steadied by her right hand, Gobrecht placed a shield emblazoned with the word "Liberty" in capital letters.

A similar shield, but without the word, crowned the breast of an eagle on the coin’s reverse. Below the eagle was the abbreviation "QUAR. DOL."

Seated Liberty Quarters featured the same design as the half dimes, dimes, half dollars, and dollars of the mid-19th century. The dollars came first in 1836, with the quarters following in 1838. Decades later, the Seated Liberty design even appeared on the short-lived (1875-1878) twenty-cent piece.

Almost half a million coins were struck in 1838 when the new quarter debuted. The Seated Liberty coins were considered an aesthetic and technical improvement on the Bust quarters that preceded them, but officials at the mint couldn’t leave well enough alone.

In 1840, Robert Ball Hughes was hired to fine-tune the design. Robes (called drapery by numismatists) were added at Lady Liberty’s left elbow, to fill in the void between her elbow and leg. Hughes also plumped her up a bit. It’s not clear, in retrospect, if any of these changes were really necessary.

By 1851, the silver in four quarters was worth more than a dollar’s worth of gold, which prompted speculators to melt down millions of dollars worth of the coins. Naturally, this caused a serious shortage of quarters. To address the problem, in 1853 Congress agreed to reduce the weight of the quarter and the shortages disappeared. For coin collectors, the result is that coins from 1851 and 1852, particularly those minted in New Orleans, are rather expensive.

To differentiate the lighter coins from the heavier ones, arrows were placed on either side of the 1853 date on the coin’s obverse. On the other side of the coin, dramatic rays w...

By 1856, it was felt that the public now understood that quarters from 1853 on were lighter than those that had come before them (most of which were out of circulation anyway). So the arrows, too, were removed.

Quarter-coin production continued throughout the Civil War, by the end of which the nation felt itself in need of the healing balm of religion. To that end, in 1866, a ribbon with the words "In God We Trust" was placed above the eagle’s beak on the reverse of seven different types of gold and silver coins (the two-cent piece got the phrase first in 1864). Quarters minted in Carson City during the early 1870s are the rarest of this series.

The quarter’s weight was increased again in 1873, so back came the arrows on either side of the coin’s date. Again, the quarters minted in Carson City that year are the rarest—just 12,462 were struck compared to 1,271,160 in Philadelphia. Seated Liberty Quarters with arrows on either side of the date continued in 1874, but the arrows were removed in 1875. The coin’s design remained stable until 1892, when the Barber quarter, or Liberty Head, was introduced.

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

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1849 Pcgs Xf45 Seated Liberty 25c - Gold Cac Sticker, Sky Blue Toned, Pq++1853-p Seated Liberty Quarter 25c Arrows & Rays Anacs Au50 -- Looks A Bit Better1853 Seated Liberty Quarter With Arrows & Rays 25c 1859-o Seated Liberty Quarter, Vf-xf Superb! * No Reserve!1877-s Seated Liberty Quarter Au++unc1855-o Arrows Seated Quarter, Pcgs G-6, Underrated Date (estatesale Is Now Dkrc)1876 Cc Liberty Seated Silver Quarter Nice Condition No Reserve!!!1888-s Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping25c 1877-cc Seated Liberty Quarter, Nice Vf, Carson City! * No Reserve!1877 - Cc Rare Liberty Seated Silver Half Dollar Coin Key Date Estate Found 1890 U.s. Seated Liberty $1/25 Quarter 25 Cent Piece Silver Coin1876-s Ultra Gem High Grade Seated Liberty Quarter From Big Collection1847-o Seated Liberty Quarter 25c. *variety 1* Better Date. New Orleans MintCivil War Quarter Silver Seated Liberty 1861 Nice Sharp With Some Light Wear1845 Seated Liberty Quarter Icg Vf25 90% Silver U.s. Coin *problem Free*1873-p Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 1875 Seated Liberty Quarter Unc 1840 Drapery Seated Liberty Quarter...1858 Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1878-cc Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 1844 Silver Seated Liberty Quarter 251875 Cc Seated Quarter Rare Issue1853 25c Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Quarter1875-s Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver ** L@@k!!1875 Seated Liberty Quarter1854-arrows Seated Liberty Quarter Au1857-o Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1874-s Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 25c Seated Quarter Lot 1845, 53, 54-o, 55, 58, 60, 76, 77-s * 8 Pieces* Nr!( 1 ) 1876 S - Seated Liberty Quarter - Circulated - Ungraded - Our Lot # 81854 Silver Seated Liberty Quarter 251853 25c Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Quarter ***xf Details*** HoledLot Of 4 Seated Liberty Quarters - 1841-o, 1861, 1877-s (x2); No Reserve!1862-p Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 1860 Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar Fine25c Seated Quarter Lot 1845, 53, 54-o, 55, 58, 60, 76, 77-s * 8 Pieces* Nr!1857 Seated Liberty Quarter Silver1854-o Seated Liberty Quarter Au+1853 25c Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Quarter ***choice Au Details*** Holed1875-p Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver ** L@@k!!United States 1855 S Seated Liberty Silver Quarter Arrows At Date Gorgeous Coin1876 -cc Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar -- Silver, Nice Condition 1856 Seated Liberty Quarter Unc !!Lot Of 2 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter 1858 & 1877 (gy1877-s Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 1888-s Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver 1857-p Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver ** L@@k!!1853 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter (es1857 Seated Liberty Quarter Fine * Free Shipping *1857 Seated Liberty Quarter Xf1854 Seated Liberty Quarter Silver1877 S Over Horizontal S Seated Liberty Quarter Fine1875-p Seated Liberty Quarter ** 90% Silver ** L@@k!!1875 S Over S, Seated Liberty Silver $0.20 Coin *free Shipping After First Item*1857-o Seated Liberty Quarter ** Free Shipping!1856 Seated Liberty Quarter Au 1853 Seated Liberty Quarter1876 Cc Seated Libertry Quarter Dollar, No Reserve1877 Cc Seated Liberty Silver 251857 Seated Liberty Quarter - Circulated Condition - 75sa