Silver Quarters: A Brief History and Guide

The United States has a rich history of coinage, and its silver quarters are an integral part of this legacy. From the early Draped Bust quarters of 1796 to the modern Washington quarters still in circulation today, these coins provide a glimpse into the nation’s cultural and economic evolution. In this article, we will take a closer look at the different types of US silver quarters and the significant events that shaped their designs.

Early History of Silver Quarters (1796-1964)

For over a century and a half, silver quarters played an important role in American coinage, serving as a medium of exchange and a symbol of the nation’s prosperity and stability. During this time, the United States Mint produced a variety of designs, each with its own unique history and significance. Before 1965, all quarters were composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, a composition that gave these coins a distinctive appearance and intrinsic value. However, in 1965, the composition of the quarter was changed to a copper-nickel alloy, marking a new era in American coinage.

Draped Bust Quarters, 1796-1807

The first US silver quarters were minted in 1796 and were referred to as Draped Bust quarters. They featured a stunning portrait of Liberty with flowing hair on the obverse, while the reverse showed an eagle within a wreath. These quarters were only minted for 11 years and are considered rare and valuable by collectors today.

Capped Bust Quarters, 1815-1838

The Capped Bust quarters were minted between 1815 and 1838 and featured a bust of Liberty wearing a cap on the obverse and a large eagle on the reverse. These quarters were smaller in size than their predecessor, the Draped Bust quarters, and are also highly sought after by collectors.

Liberty Seated Quarters, 1838-1891

The Liberty Seated quarters were minted from 1838 to 1891 and featured a seated Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. This design underwent several changes during its 53-year run, with the most notable being the addition of the glory of rays added around the eagle in 1853.

Barber Quarters, 1892-1916

The Barber quarters were minted from 1892 to 1916 and featured the head of Liberty on the obverse and a heraldic eagle on the reverse. These quarters were named after their designer, Charles Barber.

Standing Liberty Quarters, 1916-1930

Hermon A. MacNeil designed the Standing Liberty quarter, which was minted from 1916 to 1930. Liberty is shown with her left arm raised, holding a shield for protection, and her right hand holding an olive branch for peace. The initial “M” of MacNeil can be found above and to the right of the date. A change was made in 1917 to cover Liberty’s exposed breast. The reverse has a rearranged star pattern and a larger eagle. In 1925, a depression was added to the pedestal to improve the date’s durability, as previous coins had easily worn off dates due to their high placement without protection.

Washington Quarters, 1932 to Date

The Washington quarters were first minted in 1932 and are still in circulation today. They feature a bust of George Washington on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. This design was chosen to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

Modern Silver Quarters (1965-Present)

After 1965, the United States Mint stopped producing silver quarters for circulation as a cost-saving measure, as the price of silver had risen significantly. 

The use of silver in coinage was also becoming less practical due to the increasing demand for silver in industry and the rising price of the metal. Additionally, the Mint’s stockpiles of silver were becoming depleted, making it more difficult and expensive to acquire the necessary amount of silver to mint coins. The switch to a copper-nickel alloy was a way for the government to reduce the cost of producing quarters while still maintaining the coin’s purchasing power.

Despite the fact it started to produce copper-nickel alloy coins, The United States Mint, however, continues to produce silver-proof and uncirculated sets for collectors that feature the same designs as the current circulation quarters but are struck in.999 fine silver.

Best Silver Quarters to Own

When choosing the best quarters to buy, the best options are typically those with high silver content as well as coins that are rare. Also, an important thing to pay attention to is that the quarters you are planning to buy are in good condition. 

It’s important to note that with any purchasing decision, there is always a risk, so it’s important to do your own research and consult with a professional numismatist or a coin dealer before buying any coin. It is also worth mentioning that the value of a coin can fluctuate depending on the market condition and rarity of a coin.


To summarize, the history of silver quarters in the United States is a fascinating two-century subject. Silver quarters have been an important part of American coinage since their introduction in 1796 until their discontinuation in 1964. Silver quarter collecting can be a rewarding hobby, not only because of their historical significance but also because of their intrinsic value.