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    

1853 Seated Liberty Quarter Arrows & Rays Pcgs Certified Au 50 In Ogh Inv 3931851 Very Tough Date Liberty Seated Quarter, Pcgs Vf30 Cac Davidkahnrarecoins1863 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good1871 Seated Liberty 25 Cents Pf 63 Cameo -beautifully Toned - Proof 1876 Colorful Seated Liberty Quarter *pcgs* Ms-64 Pretty Toning On Both Sides1849 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Fine1862 S Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good Fine1854 25c Seated Liberty Silver Quarter Dollar1839 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Fine1844 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good1840 O Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good1854 Seated Liberty Quarter Arr High Grade 1857 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1840-o New Orleans Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free ShippingUsa America 1869 - S 25 Cents Pcgs Vf 251850 O Seated Quarter Pcgs Au-55 Rare Date!!U.s. Liberty Seated Quarters (6) 1854, 1853, 1842-o, 1853, 1877, 18571891 25c Liberty Seated Quarter1854 W / Arrows Seated Liberty Quarter High Grade UncLot Of 24 Seated Liberty Quarters All With Dates1876 Cc Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good1846 /6 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent GoodOld Us Coins Early 1876 S Choice Liberty Seated Quarter Twenty Five Cents1860 Proof Seated Liberty Quarter Pcgs Pr-641853 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter (minted 1838-1891) *arrows & Rays* Lot 7831838 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good1854 Seated Liberty Quarter With Arrows Grade Xf *as Pictured* Inv 1261843 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good1853-o Seated Liberty Quarter 25c Silver Coin **no Reserve**1847 O Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good Maybe Very Good1842 O Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good1861 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Fine1877-cc Seated Liberty Silver Quarter Better Grade **key1854 Philadelphia Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free Shipping1853 "arrows" Seated Liberty Silver Quarter. Nice Coin!1858 Seated Liberty Quarter Grade Xf *as Pictured* Inv 1271844 O Seated Quarter Dollar Very Good Fine1862 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good Maybe Very GoodSeated Liberty Quarters 20 Different With 1-civil War, 1-carson City1853 O Xf Silver Seated Liberty Quarter 25 Cents Reverse Die Break1873 W/arrows Liberty Seated Quarter, Pcgs Au58, Gem Orig Davidkahnrarecoins1855 S Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Fine1877 Seated Liberty Quarter, Choice Au Silver Type, ** Free Shipping!1874 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good Fine1843-o Seated Liberty Quarter Early New Orleans Coin1854 Seated Liberty Quarter With Arrows Grade Xf *as Pictured* Inv 1261853-p With Arrows Liberty Seated Silver Quarter No Reserve1844 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good About Good1853 Arrows And Rays Seated Liberty Quarter, Xf Details, True Auction1858 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Good1877 Extreme Rainbow Tone Seated Liberty Quarter 25c Xf Details Cleaned1847 Seated Quarter Dollar 25 Cent Very Good Fine 1857 P & 1878 Cc Seated Liberty Quarter 25c Coins Auction Starts At 99 Cents1877-cc Seated Silver Quarter Dollar1877-s San Francisco Mint Silver Seated Liberty Quarter Free ShippingDecent U.s. 1876 Seated Liberty 90% Silver Quarter Coin (km#a98) 1861 Seated Liberty Silver Quarter ~ Civil War Date ~ Better Grade1861 Seated Liberty Quarter - Extremely Fine Details - Quality Coin1857 Seated Liberty Quarter Xf *extra Fine* Wholesome & Problem Free! No Reserve25c Quarter 1858 Vf/ef Liberty Seated Silver Even Original Golden Grey Toning