As 1932 was approaching, it was going to be the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. The Treasury wanted to honor our first president. The George Washington Bicentennial Committee wanted a 1932-dated commemorative half dollar to honor him. But Congress instead chose to replace the Standing Liberty Quarter, which had only been minted for the last 15 years.
Sculptress Laura Gardin Fraser created a George Washington commemorative medal and many thought that design would grace the new Quarter. Favoring Fraser’s design were the George Washington Bicentennial Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts CFA).
The CFA supported Fraser’s design, but out-going Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon did not. Mellon chose John Flanagan’s design for the Washington Quarter. Many people considered Fraser’s design to be superior to Flanagan’s.
Flanagan’s design on the obverse had George Washington, facing left, with the motto “LIBERTY” above his head, the current date, below. The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” is to Washington’s left and below his chin.
The reverse features an American bald eagle as the central image. The eagle has raised and spread wings and faces left. The eagle is perched on fasces and olive branches below. The country “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is above the eagle and below the country is the legend “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Below the wreath is the mintmark, if any, and the denomination “QUARTER DOLLAR” is at the bottom of the reverse.
Between 1932 and 1964, which was the last year of 90% silver coins being minted, millions of coins from each mint were struck and their predominant value is in the silver that they contain. The exceptions to the values during those years were in the 1932-D and 1932-S coins as well as coins that had minting errors. Doubled Die Obverse coins where you can see the doubling on the letter plainly occurred in 1934, 1937, 1942-D, 1943, and on the 1943-S. Mintmarks being struck over other mintmarks occurred with the 1950-D/S mintmark and the 1950-S/D mintmark. All other dates and mintmarks not mentioned are common and can be sound in 90% bulk coinage, though not in high grade.
By 1964, the price of silver had risen so high that people began hoarding all silver coins. Add to the silver hysteria the fact that the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar was being hoarded as a memento to the fallen president and there was a serious silver coin shortage. The Treasury responded by striking some 1964-dated coinage in 1965.
With that Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965 and the Mint transitioned from striking 90% silver 1964-dated quarters to a striking a harder composition of 1965-dated copper-nickel quarters. Between 1965 and 1967, these new clad coins were struck at both mints – Philadelphia and Denver - all without mintmarks, regardless of where they were struck.
With the Bicentennial of American Independence coming in 1976, Congress authorized a design change for the Quarter Dollar, Half Dollar and One Dollar coins to reflect the spirit of American patriotism. These coins would not only bear patriotic designs, but they would also bear the dual date of 1776-1976. For these three denominations there would be no 1975-dated regular design issues. Thus, the Bicentennial were introduced and in order to prevent hoarding they were struck in numbers sufficient to prevent that.
Beginning with the 1977-dated coins, the designs on both sides returned to Flanagan’s original designs. These designs continued, uninterrupted until 1999, when the State Quarters Program was begun. Designed to spur interest in coin collecting, this program honored 5 states each year for a 10-year period. Each state would have their designs struck in the order in which the state joined the Union. The states ran competitions to select the designs that best exemplified their individual state. The designs were selected by the Treasury Secretary upon the recommendation by each state’s governor.
Once the State Quarter Program had run its course, the Mint in 2009 struck coins for the District of Columbia and for 5 US Territories. All were struck during 2009 and all were struck in the same options as were the State Quarters.
Based on the success of the State Quarters Program and then the Territories, the next Quarter type created was the America the Beautiful series. The coins would honor a site in each state of “natural or historical significance.” This was left open to interpretation by the states and the series would run from 2010 to 2021.