The quarter is a denomination that has been
minted in the United States since 1796. The first quarter
was a Draped Bust, Small Eagle that was a one-year-type
coin. In 1804 a heraldic eagle design was added to the Draped
Bust obverse. These were issued until 1807. Capped Bust
quarters were issued from 1815 to 1838. Later in 1838, a
new motif, the Seated Liberty, was used. The new quarters
were issued from 1838 to 1891.
Sometimes called the Liberty
Seated Quarter, the series had five varieties. These include
No Motto Above the Eagle, With Arrows and Rays, just Arrows
with No Rays, Motto Above the Eagle, and With Arrows and
The motif was designed by
Christian Gobrecht. It shows Liberty as she sits and looks
over her shoulder to the left. With her right hand she balances
a Federal shield that is inscribed LIBERTY. With the left,
she holds a pole on which is placed a Liberty cap. Thirteen
stars are above her, seven to the left, and six to the right.
Stars 8 and 9 are interrupted by the cap on the pole. The
date is below the image on the obverse. The reverse shows
the heraldic eagle looking left. It is surrounded by the
required inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination
written as QUAR. DOL. below. Dentils are around the periphery
of both sides of the coin.
Variety 1 was issued from
1838 to 1853. It shows No Motto Above the Eagle. With its
weight at 6.68 grams, it was the heaviest type in the series.
It was composed of .900 silver and .100 copper, had a diameter
of 24.3 millimeters, and a reeded edge. It was made in Philadelphia
and New Orleans. Proofs were made, but they are all extremely
rare with no mintage exceeding 15 or 20.
Variety 2 was a one-year-type;
arrows were placed at the date and rays were put around
the eagle. This change was done to show the reduction in
weight to 6.22 grams. The composition and diameter remained
unchanged. Because the Arrows and Rays type was made only
for one year, it is much in demand from collectors. It too
was made at Philadelphia and New Orleans. Proofs are exceedingly
rare because only 10 to 15 were minted.
The years 1854 and 1855
saw arrows continue at the date with the rays removed from
the reverse. The weight, composition, size, and edge remained
unchanged. This Variety 3 was minted at Philadelphia, New
Orleans, and San Francisco. Since only 20 to 30 proofs were
minted for these two years, they are very rare.
From 1856 to 1865, Variety
1 was resumed with the weight standard of Variety 2. As
such it had no arrows or rays, and the specifications were
the same as Varieties 2 and 3. This type was minted in Philadelphia,
New Orleans, and San Francisco. These years saw proof mintage
increase from 40 or so to 1,000 in 1860 and 1861.
In 1866 a new type was
created. Variety 4 had a Motto Above the Eagle. Although
the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added, the specifications
remained the same as the second and third varieties. It
was issued until 1873 in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and
Carson City. Poof mintages varied from 600 to 1,000.
When the weight was changed
to 6.25 grams, Arrows at the Date were added to show the
change. The other specifications remained unchanged. This
Variety 5 quarter was issued at Philadelphia, San Francisco,
and Carson City in 1873 and 1874. Proof mintages were 540
and 700 respectively for the two years.
From 1875 to 1891, Variety
4 was resumed with the weight standard of Variety 5. These
were minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco.
Proof mintages ranged from 510 to 1,355.
In his Numismatic Art in
America Cornelius Vermeule has a decidedly negative view
of Gobrecht’s motif as it appears on these coins:
“[Liberty] has lost much of her plastic quality, becoming
flatter and more like an engraving than a statue….Clutching
her ridiculous little hat on a pole and the small shield
nestling in the drapery at her side, Liberty looks anxiously
over her shoulder as if a horde of Indians were sprinting…toward
Issued for 53 years, the
Liberty Seated quarter saw many changes in the United States.
By 1838 a major recession had set it that prompted President
Andrew Jackson to issue a Specie Circular. It repealed the
requirement that all land purchases from the government
be made with hard currency. The measure had been faulted
for taking large amounts of coinage from circulation and
worsening the economic crisis. Following this law, the Supreme
Court ruled that property rights can be overridden by public
need. After only one month in office in 1841, William Henry
Harrison was succeeded by John Tyler. Although he was impeached,
the attempt to remove him from office was unsuccessful.
Polk was elected in 1844, and Florida and Texas became states.
In 1846, there was a war with Mexico. Iowa became a state,
and Taylor became President. Wisconsin became the 30th state
in the union. The Mexican-American War ended with the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1849, the same year, the Gold Rush
in California began. The next year, Taylor died and Millard
Fillmore became President.
The next decade saw division
as a result of the conflicting ideas of national unity and
sectionalism. The Compromise of 1850 admitted California
as a free state, but Fugitive State Laws were enacted. In
1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published and Jossiah Priest
published Bible Defense of Slavery. Franklin Pierce was
elected President, and California encouraged Chinese to
immigrate and work on the railroads. The next year the United
States and Mexico sign the Gadsden Treaty. In Kansas Free
Soilers establish a government banning slavery and blacks
from Kansas. In 1856 Bessemer invented a process that allowed
for the m ass production of steel. John Brown led a raid
in Kansas in which five slavery supporters were killed.
The momentous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision was handed
down in 1857. During the next several years Lincoln debated
Douglass. Douglass was elected to the Senate. Oregon was
admitted as a new state in 1859, and John Brown let his
raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia. In 1860 Lincoln was
elected President, and South Carolina seceded.
The Civil War began with
Fort Sumter fired upon. Virginia seceded, and the remaining
four of the eleven Confederate states seceded. In the summer
the Confederacy won the First and Second Battle of Bull
Run. They also win the Battle of Fredericksburg and lose
5,300 men compared to 12,600 lost by the Union. In 1863
in the North, conscription was enacted. The Union was defeated
at Chancellorville but prevailed at Gettysburg, where they
fought a defensive battle. Draft riots and raced riots took
place in New York City. In 1864, Lincoln was re-elected.
Sherman marched thorough Georgia, and Lee surrendered in
April. A week later, Lincoln was shot. In May the remaining
Confederate armies surrendered.
In the aftermath of the
war, there was a period of Reconstruction. Johnson was impeached
and acquitted in 1868, and Grant was elected President.
Southern states were readmitted to the Union. The 15th Amendment
was ratified giving blacks the right to vote. In 1871 KKK
members were tried and convicted in Mississippi. President
Grant suspended habeas corpus and declared martial law in
nine South Carolina counties. Many blacks were elected to
political office including seven in the 43rd Congress. In
Tennessee in 1875 “Jim Crow” laws were enacted.
Federal troops were sent to Vicksburg to protect blacks,
and a Civil Right Act was passed; however, in 1883 it was
declared unconstitutional. In 1889 Washington was admitted
to the Union. The Battle of Wounded Knee took place in 1890.
Christian Gobrecht was the
third Chief Engraver at the United States Mint. Born in
Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1785, he was the son of a German
immigrant and a mother whose family traced their ancestry
to the early settlers at Plymouth. Gobrecht married Mary
Hewes in 1818. He became an engraver of ornamentally designed
clocks in Baltimore. In Philadelphia, he later became an
engraver of banknotes. He worked at the Franklin Institute
as an engraver of medals. He invented a machine that enabled
one to change a three-dimensional medal into an illustration.
Gobrecht had a good position and was reluctant to work for
the Mint for less money, but Mint Director Robert Patterson
persuaded Chief Engraver William Kneass to accept less,
since he had a debilitating stroke, so Gobrecht could be
his assistant. In 1826 he did his first work for the Mint
as an assistant to Kneass. After the stroke, Gobrecht did
the pattern and die work for the Mint. He served as Chief
Engraver from 1840 to 1844. He was well known for his Seated
Liberty motif, which was present on all regular silver denominations.
He also designed the Trade Dollar and the Twenty Cent piece
that were based on the same motif. In addition Gobrecht
designed the Liberty Head motif, which was used on all gold
denominations of the time including the eagle, half eagle,
and the quarter eagle. He was responsible for the Liberty
Head, Braided Hair half cent, and the Braided Hair cent.
Gobrecht was succeeded by James B. Longacre as Chief Engraver.