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    

1891 25c Pcgs Pr65 Seated Liberty Quarter (pcgs Priceguide Value Of $2,000)1866 Motto 25c Seated Liberty Quarter Very Rare Coin.1853 25c Arrows And Rays Liberty Seated Quarter Pcgs Xf40 Green Cac StickerLot Of 20 Seated Liberty Quarters- Scarce- No Reserve1851-o Seated Liberty Quarter - About Good Details1839 25c No Drapery Liberty Seated Quarter Pcgs Vf201875-s U.s. Seated Liberty Twenty Cent * Better Grade * A Nice Type For Book1876-cc Seated Liberty Quarter, Super Tough Carson City Mint Date ** Free S/h1858 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter Vf-xf Struck Out Of Collar Us Mint Error Coin1887 Seated Liberty Quarter - About Good1848 Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar - Repunched Date Rpd, Compass Point Reverse1875-cc Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar - Good Details1839 Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25c Circulated / Damaged * Free Shipping *1876-s Seated Liberty Quarter Pcgs Au58 "great Looking Coin"1843 Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25c Circulated * Free Shipping *1854 Arrows Liberty Seated Quarter Vf+1876 Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25c Circulated * Free Shipping *1861-s Seated Liberty Quarter - Very Good Details - Pitted / Cleaned1876 Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25c Circulated / Altered * Free Shipping *Mixed Lot Of Seated Liberty Quarters (as Pictured)Mixed Lot Of Seated Liberty Quarters (as Pictured)1876 Cc Us Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25 Cents Icg Ef45 Graded Coin1875 Liberty Seated Quarter Vf1858 25c Seated Liberty Quarter1854 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free ShippingEstate Find 1873 - Cc Arrows Seated Liberty Half Dollar #f75511853 25c Pcgs Xf40 Arrows And RaysEstate Find 1917 - Type 1 Standing Liberty Quarter!! #g55011840-p Seated Liberty Quarter Xf Details W/ Drapery Decent Eye Appeal1862 Lib. Seated Quarter No Motto1854 Seated Quarter With Arrows Icg Au 50 High Grade1857-s Seated Liberty Quarter - Very Good Details1853/4 Seated Liberty Quarter Doubled Arrow Fs-1301 Fine Scarce Error Coin1873 Seated Liberty Quarter, Arrows, Choice Au++ Better Date Silver Type!1842 Seated Quarter--nice Original Very GoodNoblespirit No Reserve {3970} Desirable 1858 Us 25¢ Seated Liberty Xf1876-cc Seated Liberty Quarter, Tough Carson City Issue ** Free Shipping!1841 O Seated Liberty Quarter1858-s Seated Liberty Quarter - Very Good Details1876-cc Seated Liberty Quarter, Carson City Silver Type, ** Free Shipping!1843 Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar - 'lightning Bolt' Reverse 'c'1856 Liberty Seated Silver Quarter 25c Circulated * Free Shipping *1845 Seated Liberty Quarter, Tough Early Silver ** Free Shipping!1844 O Seated Quarter Tough Date Nice Free ShippingUs 1855 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter W/ Arrows At Date Circulated Condition1875 Silver Seated Quarter1932 S Washington Quarter Dollar//tough Date 1853-o & 1855-o Seated Liberty Silver Quarters .25c | Take A Look | 7303Estate Find 1862 - Seated Liberty Quarter!! #g56371876 Cc Seated Liberty 25c Twenty Five Cent Key Date Silver Quarter Coin! 7729g1854 Seated Liberty Quarter 1875 Seated Liberty Quarter Very Good1932 D Washington Quarter Dollar//tough Date Estate Find 1876 - Cc Seated Liberty Quarter!! #f97363 Liberty Seated Quarter Dollar 1873 1875 1876 / Free Shipping1978 Cc Us Silver Liberty Seated Quarter Silver 25 Cents Carson City1875-s Seated Liberty Quarter. 1876-s Seated Liberty Quarter 1856 1858 158 1876 1877 1888 S Seated Quarters 1891 Seated Liberty Quarter Fine