When you flip a quarter for heads or tails, the most you ever look for is to see which side it landed on. But, if you'd take a closer look, you might find that the random quarter wedged between your couch cushions is way too special to be tossing around in the air. The most valuable quarters may look innocuous at first glance, but their age, rarity, and unique characteristics come together to create powerhouses in the auction circuit. If you want to grab a piece of that pie, keep your eyes peeled for these valuable American quarters.
The Most Valuable U.S. Quarters Ever Sold
|Most Valuable US Quarters||Record Sales Price|
|1796 Draped Bust Quarter||$1.74 million|
|1901 S Barber Quarter||$550,000|
|1804 Draped Bust Quarter||$345,000|
|1873-CC Liberty Seated Quarter With Arrows||$336,000|
|1870 Liberty Seated Quarter||$188,000|
With their large faces and varied designs, American quarters are some of the most fun coins to collect from history. While not every quarter is worth more than a hot 25 cents, a couple have catapulted in collectors' circles to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. Rare, unusual, and old, these are some of the most valuable American quarters in the world.
1796 Draped Bust Quarter
When America was just a wee baby learning how to walk and putting financial systems into place, it rolled out its first currency. One of these was the 25 cent quarter that's still used today. Originally designed by Robert Scot with a woman's profile surrounded by fifteen stars, it's almost impossible to find in the wild. Since only 6,416 were minted in 1796, the chances of just one making it 200+ years into the future intact are super low.
Miraculously, a number of them have survived, and they sell for impressive amounts of money. In fact, one sold in 2022 for $1.74 million, making it perhaps the most expensive American quarter ever sold.
1901 S Barber Quarter
The 1901 S Barber quarter is a very rare coin minted in San Francisco. Made almost entirely out of silver, it's a part of the highly valuable Barber series featuring a portrait of Liberty on the face surrounded by 13 stars. Only 72,664 of them were minted, and even in average condition, they'll sell for around $20,000-$50,000. But, you don't reach life-changing amounts of money until you hit the best conditions; the most pristine copy ever found sold in 1990 for $550,000.
1804 Draped Bust Quarter
Liberty was still on everyone's mind in 1804; the American Revolution only ended 21 years prior, and the United States' financial institutions were in their infancy. Coins that've survived from this early period in American history are super rare to find, especially in great condition. The 1804 Draped Bust quarter is one of these that continues to sell for hundreds of thousands in the best condition. One sold in 2011 for an impressive $345,000. That's a 99% increase from its face value.
1873-CC Liberty Seated Quarter With Arrows
Carson City, Nevada, doesn't have a U.S. mint facility anymore, so finding a coin with a CC mark is quite special. Of these Carson City coins, the 1873 Liberty Seated quarters are some of the best. You want to look for two arrows printed alongside the date on the bottom of the front, since far fewer of these were minted, and they all were struck using a single die (an impressive feat for the period). Crisp and clear 1873-CC quarters have sold for anywhere between $100,000-$300,000, with one selling in 2022 for $336,000.
1870 Liberty Seated Quarter
With only 8,340 of them ever made, the Reconstruction Era Liberty Seated quarter from 1870 is a super rare find. Made almost entirely out of silver, you'll be hard pressed to find any of these without some kind of patina on them. Even in the lowest grades, these quarters will sell for around $5,000 at auction, but they'll drastically jump in price when they reach the higher grades. For example, in 2015, one sold for $188,000 at auction.
Other Old Quarters You Can Collect
Contemporary quarters might be pretty to look at, but they're not that collectible in their own right. The further back in history you go, the harder it is to even find examples of old quarters, let alone ones with designs that haven't been completely rubbed off.
If you're new to the collecting game, these designs can be an immediate indicator that they're old and probably worth some money.
Draped Bust Quarters (1796-1807)
Although quarters were introduced with the Mint Act of 1792, the first batch didn't roll out until 1796, bearing the 'Draped Bust' design. A portrait image of Liberty with long, flowing hair surrounded by 13 stars appears on the face (obverse), while the back (reverse) shows the classic heraldic eagle with its outstretched wings and body forming a shield.
Capped Bust Quarters (1815-1838)
Interestingly, quarter production stopped between 1807 and 1815, and when they finally came back, they came back with a bang. This new 'Capped Bust' design placed Liberty's portrait facing the opposite direction, and she now had a fashionable cap on top of her head tied with a ribbon that proclaimed Liberty. The reverse has the same heraldic eagle, except with resting wings and a head in profile.
Liberty Seated Quarters (1838-1891)
The 'Liberty Seated' design was so popular that it appeared on the dime, half dollar, dollar, and quarter concurrently. This is the first illustration where we get a full-body image of Liberty. She's seated on a rock with her cap resting on the top of a pole in her hand. The reverse has the same eagle as the series before.
Barber Quarters (1892-1916)
Charles Barber's quarter design took away this lounging image of Liberty and brought her back to her roots. Once again, the side-profile portrait returned, except this time with Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap and a laurel wreath. In addition, the reverse has a heraldic eagle much closer to the Draped Bust quarters, except now with a background filled with stars.
Standing Liberty Quarters (1916-1930)
The most controversial American quarter design was the 'Standing Liberty' quarter. Initial designs had Liberty's right breast exposed as she stood with a draped gown in a gateway holding a branch and shield in either hand. People in the 'teens sure knew how to kick up a fuss, and the design was quickly changed to incorporate chain mail covering her exposed chest. An interesting change to the reverse is that the eagle's free and in flight for the first time in American mint history.
Valuable Things to Look for in American Quarters
American quarters are somes of the most recognizable coins in the world. People have been collecting them for generations, but you don't have to be a legacy coin collector to find something special in your pocket change. With a little guidance and the tenacity to sift through handfuls of coins, you'll be able to pick out the noteworthy ones from the mundane.
- Look for dates before 1965. One standout characteristic for American quarters is that all of them made before 1965 were 90% silver. So, at the very least, any quarter with a date pre-1965 is worth its weight in silver.
- Inspect them for mistakes/errors. Collectors love rare pieces, and nothing shouts one of a kind like mistakes minted on American coins. Since quarters are so big, they're the easiest common currency to look for errors. Extra images, doubled letters, and indentations are all things to keep an eye out for.
- Check for mint marks. The single capital letters you find on American coins coincide with the mint that made them. Some mints aren't around anymore (like Carson City or New Orleans), while others only minted collector coins and proof sets. So finding old coins with visible mint marks (since they usually get worn away over time) is a great place to start.
Values You Won't Want to Flip For
It'll never stop being amazing how something so small could be worth so much money, particularly when it's actually a piece of money itself. Yet, old American quarters continue to sweep auctions every year with high values and big audience turnouts. So, before you say no to your change at the register, think about how much money might actually be hidden in those handfuls.
Discover the most valuable coins in the world.