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    

1839 Seated Liberty Silver 25 Cents -no Drapery- Icg Ms63 Scarce!1882 Seated Liberty Quarter--ngc Ms 62--purple Toning--nice1864 25c Pcgs Vf 30 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter, Scarce Date, Civil War Coin1876-cc Seated Liberty "carson City" Silver Quarter Pcgs Xf-451883 Seated Liberty Quarter Pcgs Pr 65 Cam1877-s Ngc Seated Liberty Quarter Ngc Ms 63 ** Very Pq Fresh Look, Free S/h!Key 1850-o Seated Liberty Silver Quarter, High Grade++1858 Seated Liberty Quarter, Super Sharp Strike ** Free Shipping!1857 Seated Liberty Quarter, Tough Silver Coin ** Free Shipping!1853 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter - Extra FineEarly 1844-o & 1846 Seated Liberty Silver Quarters**** 1877-s Seated Liberty Quarter ** Free Shipping!Key Date 1851-o Seated Liberty Silver Quarters**** Coin Seated Liberty United States 25 Cents 1879 Ngc Pf58Lovely 1871 Pcgs Pr65 Gem Colorful Toned Proof Seated Quarter 1854 Seated Liberty Quarter, With Arrows, Very Nice Choice Bu++ Better Date!1876-cc Seated Liberty Quarter, Key Date Carson City Type, ** Free Shipping!1853 Seated Liberty Quarter, Arrows And Rays, Nice Xf + Original Surfaces Coin1842-p Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar Old Antique Vintage U.s Us Coin SilverNice 1855 Seated Liberty Quarter Silver1853 Seated Quarter 25c High Grade Awesome Eye AppelaNice 1874-s Seated Liberty Quarter Xf Details - Free ShippingSeated Liberty Quarter Dollar 1853 O Arrows Rays Eagle Silver Coin 25 Cents Ef+U.s. 1861 Seated Liberty Quarter Au1877-s San Francisco Seated Liberty Silver Quarter - Extra Fine1857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1870 Seated Liberty Quarter- Rare Low Mintage Coin 1857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1854 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1840-p Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar Old Antique Vintage U.s Us Coin Silver1875 Seated Quarter Silver Coins Lot Of (5) Seated Quarters Five Quarters In Lot1876 Cc Beautiful Quarter Dollar Genuine Au Details1838 Capped Bust Silver Quarter Beautiful Coin ***** Take A Lqqk *****1876 Seated Liberty Quarter - Full Liberty, High Grade Details, Centennial Year!1858-s Seated Quarter Very Scarce DateExcellent 1853 & 1854-o Seated Quarters**** 1857 Pcgs Seated Liberty Quarter Pcgs Xf 45 ** Free Shipping!1857-o 25c Liberty Seated Quarter High Grade Au Details1853 Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar 25c A&r **vf+** Us Coin "rare"1857 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter - Very Fine1876 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1857 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter. Better Grade1856 25c Seated Quarter Very Fine / Extra Fine Beautiful Coin1847 O Seated Liberty Quarter High Grade Beautiful 1856 & 1859 Seated Liberty Silver Quarters**** 1857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1876-s Seated Liberty Quarter1853 25c Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Quarter Anacs Vf 35 Details Cleaned1854 Seated Liberty Quarter With Arrows1858 Seated Liberty Quarter Very Fine Details Liberty Legible Vf1844 25c Seated Liberty Anacs Vf30 DetailsSeated Liberty 90% Silver Quarter Lot Of 8 Us Coins1878 Seated Quarter 25c High Grade1856 Seated Liberty Quarter1888-s Seated Liberty Quarter- Rare Low Mintage Coin 1891-s Seated Liberty Quarter- Very Fine !! Better Date !! #p27821857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1875 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1859 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter Xf- * Circulated Us Coin *1857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping